Chemical Safety

NIU is transitioning to new laboratory safety software (CEMS). Registering your laboratory in the new system will create a Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) required for your laboratory. In the interim, you must have a copy (electronic or hard) of your current CHP available. (This was formally generated through infoEd). ORCIS can assist with creating the plan prior to CEMS becoming available to your department.

Roles and Responsibilities for Laboratory Safety

The NIU Health and Safety policy outlines safety responsibilities, including those in the laboratory.

Chemical Hygiene Plan

The chemical hygiene plan applies to your laboratory only if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • Chemical manipulations are carried out on a "laboratory scale"
  • Multiple chemical procedures or chemicals are used
  • The procedures involved are not part of a production process
  • "Protective laboratory practices and equipment" are available and in common use to minimize the potential for employee exposure to hazardous chemical.

OSHA definitions: Laboratory: a facility where the "laboratory use of hazardous chemicals" occurs. It is a workplace where relatively small quantities of hazardous chemicals are used on a nonproduction basis. Laboratory scale: work with substances in which the containers used for reactions, transfers, and other handling of substances are designed to be easily and safely manipulated by one person. Excludes those workplaces whose function is to produce commercial quantities of materials.

If your laboratory does not meet the above criteria contact Jim Gable at for a consultation.

Assistance for creating the CHP

Chemical Hazard Identification

The Chemical Waste Management guide provides an overview of NIU's chemical waste program, including identifying certain types of hazardous waste.

Hazardous chemicals are defined by Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards as the following:

  • Physical hazard means a chemical for which there is scientifically valid evidence that it is a combustible liquid, a compressed gas, explosive, flammable, an organic peroxide, an oxidizer, pyrophoric, unstable (reactive) or water-reactive.
  • Health hazard means a chemical for which there is statistically significant evidence based on at least one study conducted in accordance with established scientific principles that acute or chronic health effects may occur in exposed employees. The term "health hazard" includes chemicals that are carcinogens, toxic or highly toxic agents, reproductive toxins, irritants, corrosives, sensitizers, hepatotoxins, nephrotoxins, neurotoxins, agents which act on the hematopoietic system and agents that damage the lungs, skin, eyes or mucous membranes.

Therefore, in order to handle hazardous chemicals properly, inventory must be established and updated as chemicals are added or removed from the laboratory and shall be completed in your Laboratory Safety Plan which will be available in the CEMS software. In the interim please retain a paper or electronic copy of your inventory.

Controlling Chemical Exposure

All chemicals should be used with care. Review the chemical's safety data sheet for proper use of the chemical. Chemical fume hoods and glove boxes are available to prevent exposure to harmful chemicals. However, if there is a concern regarding the safe use of a particular chemical contact ORICS. ORCIS works closely with Environmental Health and Safety to monitor and mitigate chemical exposure above acceptable levels, (as determined by best practices and regulations).

Engineering Controls

NIU maintains fume hoods through our Fume Hood Equipment Service and Maintenance Policy.

NIU also has a Personal Protective Lab Equipment policy.

Information and Training

In addition to the online training, ORCIS offers general laboratory training several times a year as invited by departments. Please talk to your chair or director about the next scheduled session or contact Michele Crase to set up a new session.

Laboratory-specific training is the responsibility of the principal investigator.

If you would like specific training that you are unable to offer please contact Michele Crase at to make a request. These requests will be reviewed and an outside specialist may be brought in if appropriate and funding is available.

Emergency Action Plans

Prior Approval for Laboratory Procedures

Medical Examinations and Consultations

Medical examinations and consultations are conducted on an as-needed basis based on the potential hazards in the laboratory, industry best practices and government regulations. Medical examinations and consultations will be performed by a licensed medical professional at no cost to the employee. Contact ORCIS for more information.

Particularly Hazardous Substances

Please see NIU's emergency response guide regarding hazardous substances.

You may also wish to perform a hazard assessment in your laboratory.

Laboratory Inspections

NIU has a laboratory inspection program.

Safety Data Sheets

Safety data sheets must be obtained from the respective manufacturer(s). A copy shall be available to those working in the laboratory.

Learn more about how to read a safety data sheet from Flinn Scientific.

Contact Us

Chemical Safety Officer
Jim Gable