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Safe use of chemicals

Chemicals can represent a large risk of harm befalling both to humans and the environment if they are treated incorrectly

Therefore it is important that when planning an experiment in the laboratory with chemicals, information about the properties of the chemicals in question is acquired by consulting the safety data sheet and the information on the container; to make sure that applicable rules and regulations for safe handling are followed. Fume hoods and protective equipment shall be used when the risk posed by the chemicals is significant.

Safety data sheet

The safety data sheet (SDS) contains informations about the dangers related to the specific chemical and its use. Safety data sheets also contain supplementary information, including physical/chemical properties, hazards, first aid measures, measures in the event of fire and discharges, handling, storage, protective equipment and waste handling. Safety data sheets for the chemicals at UiB is kept in a database, Workplace safety, a link to it can be found at the HSE-Gateway.

More info about safety data sheets can be found at the HSE-gateway at UoBs website.

Hazard labelling

CLP regulations came into effect in 2012. CLP represents classification, labeling and packaging of substances and mixtures. The introduction of CLP is based on a global brand system and leads to a common set of rules in all EEA countries. Introduction of CLP implies that R- and S statement to be replaced with H- and P-statements.

In addition CLP introduced new hazard pictograms.

Emergency Aid Stations for chemical spills

To ensure quick clean up from spills with chemicals, Emergency Aid Stations have been created that contain rolls of absorptive material for liquids, special gloves and special bags for the waste. The waste is usually to be regarded as hazardous waste. Small amounts of harmless chemicals (SDS without dangerous additives) can be treated as for problem waste and be placed in a yellow box. In the case of dry chemicals, the spill should be swept up, and the collected waste treated in the same way.

  • At the department, Emergency Aid Stations have been set up at the following locations:
    • 1st floor At the chemical storage office
    • 1st floor In the storage room for combustible chemicals and gas storage
    • 4th floor In the preparation room for the biochemical laboratories
    • 5th floor Just inside the exit door from the floor, to the lifts in the west
    • 6th floor Just inside the exit door from the floor, to the lifts in the west
    • 7th floor Just inside the exit door from the floor, to the lifts in the west

Workplace safety

Workplace safety is an electronic chemical inventory for both employees and students at UoB. It is a internet based tool which help with charting and assessing the chemical and biological dangers, both to the working environment, fire and the external environment based on the safety data sheets that are registered.

All employees and students have access to workplace via feide logging (

In addition each research group have at least one appointed administrator who is responsible for adding chemicals the group purchase into the system. The administrator should also be a resource for people who who use the system in the group. Administrators must log-in using "Feide" with their personal UoB username and password, a link to this log in can be found on the HSE-gateway.

UoB offers internal courses in Workplace safety each semester.

Exposure register

Everyone who is exposed to carcinogenic, harmful chemicals (H-phrases H340, H350, H350i and all H360) or work with ionizing radiation, lead or lead compounds or exposed to biological factors (infection group 3 or 4) must register this use in the exposure register.

This is a statutory registry for employees and students.

The person exposed is responsible for registering the exposure in Workplace safety, the groups contact person(s) may provide assistance and guidance. When registering the first exposure it is necessary to add a little personal information to a personal account in Workplace safety. Contact the HSE-Coordinator at IBM (Juha Vahokoski, Fellesavdelingen, 55 58 60 53) if you need help with this. For additional information pleas refer to the HSE-gateway regarding the exposure register where you will also find a guide.

Guidelines for working with chemicals

These guidelines are intended to protect laboratory personnel against accidents and harm to their health and to ensure that chemical laboratory work is carried out in a safe manner and in accordance with laws and regulations. The guidelines apply to all employees, students and guest researchers who work at or conduct experiments using chemicals at IBM.


Responsible manager: Employee responsible for managing or supervising other employees
Course instructor: Course instructor responsible for laboratory courses for students and for supervising such courses
Employee: Everyone who has an employment relationship with UoB (inc. externally-funded employees), and guest lecturers and students who are attached to the research laboratory through projects
Student: Students registered at the University of Bergen


Pursuant to the provisions of the Working Environment Act, particularly Section 14, the responsible manager and course instructor are responsible for:

  • ensuring that things are organised so that these guidelines can be complied with
  • ensuring that employees and students are made familiar with accident and health hazards which may be involved in the work, and that they receive the necessary training, practice and instruction
  • training
  • ensuring that the necessary protective equipment is made available and is used

Employees and students are responsible for:

  • abiding by valid procedures
  • using necessary protective equipment
  • notifying the responsible manager or course instructor about any faults or deficiencies

Room Supervisor

All rooms where chemicals are stored must have a room supervisor according to the guidelines for handling chemicals. The doors into the rooms must be labelled with the name of the supervisor.

The room supervisor must be a permanent technical or scientific position, and be appointed by the group leader and approved by the executive manager.

They must have knowledge of the activities in the room and ensure that all operations follow the guidelines for good HSE practices. Furthermore, the room supervisor should attend the risk assessment and safety rounds in the room they are responsible for.

General safety rules

Act in accordance with the information provided in handbooks, directives and safety data sheets.

  • Keep laboratory benches orderly and tidy. Only the equipment and chemicals needed for the experiment should be kept on the bench.
  • It is not permitted to eat or drink in the laboratory.
  • Never taste chemicals or solutions.
  • Lab coats must be worn in order to protect clothing and skin.
  • Gloves must be worn when handling concentrated, toxic or carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals.
  • Protective goggles must be used during work which may involve splashing or cause explosions.
  • Work involving irritant or toxic gases or volatile solvents must be conducted in fume cupboards (this includes heating acids).
  • Familiarise yourself with the properties of the chemicals you use. You can find this information on the safety data sheet.
  • Always label flasks with their contents, name and date.
  • Unknown substances must be presumed to be toxic.
  • Chemical bottles must not be carried by the neck/cap. Heavier bottles should be carried in separate “carrying baskets”.
  • Do not use equipment without proper training.
  • When using a pipette you must use a pipette helper or a Peleus ball.
  • Gas burners must be put on low flame when temporarily not in use, and extinguished when no longer in use.
  • Chemical spills must be cleaned up immediately, there is an an emergency stations in each laboratory floor.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly when you have been in contact with chemicals. Use soap or other cleaning agents.

Protective equipment

Necessary protective equipment must be available in the laboratory. When planning experiments using harmful chemicals the main rule is to use a lab coat, a fume hood or safety goggles and gloves. Make sure the safety equipment is sufficient for the dangers posed by the selected chemicals.

Always remove the gloves when you leave the lab. Any liquid on gloves can be a source of contamination with harmful chemicals.

For more information refer to the chapter regarding [[

Ta alltid av hanskene når du forlater laboratoriet. Søl på hanskene kan være kilde for kontaminasjon med skadelige kjemikalier.

For mer informasjon henvises det til kapittelet om personal protection.

Safety during a pregnancy

Gravide, eller kvinner som ammer, skal ikke utføre arbeid som kan gi eksponering for potensielt skadelige kjemikalier. For utfyllende informasjon se kapittel om Pregnancy/fertility and the working environment.


All chemicals which are to be disposed shall be treaded as hazardous waste.

Glass waste shall be collected in yellow boxes (chapter on glass waste).

Spills and accidents

Acid and base spills on skin, mucous membranes or clothes must be rinsed thoroughly with water. If the eyes are splashed, they must be continuously rinsed for at least 10 minutes, and a doctor must be contacted.

Concentrated acid spills must be neutralised by adding sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) or sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) diluted with a lot of water and wiped up. If there is nothing to neutralise the spill with, be aware that adding water may cause spattering.

Concentrated base spills must be handled in a similar manner, but using, acetic acid (CH3COOH) as the neutralising agent, where appropriate.

Storage and handling

Before using a chemical you are obligated to know the properties, hazards and necessary safety measures for it. You can find extensive information about each specific chemical in the safety data sheets, in addition to the information on the label.


Substances which react together, e.g. an acid and a base, or an oxidising agent and a reducing agent, must be stored separately, i.e. in a manner whereby they do not come into contact with each other.

Chemicals which are required to be labelled “Very toxic” and ethanol and narcotic substances must be stored in a locked cupboard or a separate locked room. All “containers” must have labels stating which substances they contain.

NB! Never put substances back into containers.

Handling chemicals

Concentrated acids and bases

Strong acids and bases can lead to deep acid burns when spilled or splashed on the skin. The eyes are particularly sensitive to acids and bases. Goggles, lab coats and gloves must therefore always be used when handling such chemicals. Heat is generated when acids and bases are mixed with water. Particularly much heat is generated when concentrated acids and bases is diluted.

Acids and bases must therefore be diluted by gradually being added to water while stirring and, if necessary, cooling.

"Acid in water is fine, water in acid is a crime!"

Toxic and hazardous chemicals

There are several ways in which toxic substances can be taken up by the body; for example orally, by inhalation, through sores and insect bites, and by the absorption of spills through the skin. Certain substances are fatal in small doses, and others might give permanent health issues, many are carcinogenic and others can give long term health effects even in small doses. Therefore people working with chemicals are required to be familiar with the safety data sheet of the chemical they are using.

When working with toxic or potentially toxic chemicals one should always wear a lab coat and use gloves in addition to using a fume hood and/or goggles. Work with volatile substances "shall" be carried out in a fume hood. When working with allergenic substances or compounds that are harmful to the skin it is required to use a fume hood and gloves.

NB!! It is not allowed to use mercury and mercury compounds at the University of Bergen.

Flammable organic liquids

Fires in laboratories are often caused by work with flammable compounds, particularly organic liquids. Many of them are volatile and emit flammable vapours which are heavier than air and collect along floors and laboratory benches. The vapours can be ignited in many ways: open flames, electrical switches and thermostats, frictional heat, static electricity, sparks from motors or apparatus, and chemical reactions.

Heating and distillation of flammable liquids must not be carried out in the vicinity of open flames.

The filtration of warm solutions of substances dissolved in flammable organic solvents is extremely hazardous due to strong vaporisation. Such filtration must only be conducted in fume cupboards where no open flames are used.

Flammable liquids must be stored in approved/fireproof cupboards. Do not leave bottles containing flammable liquids uncapped.

Eksplosive kjemikalier

Chemicals classified as explosives must be inspected quarterly (every three months), at which time the dampness of chemicals must be inspected. Appropriate liquids should be added to chemicals that are beginning to dry out.

These compounds must under no circumstances be allowed to dry as it will make the explosion hazard imminent.

Waste that is explosive must be handled separate from all other waste, take contact with the contact person for hazardous waste at IBM (Juha Vahokoski | Fellesavdelingen | 55 58 60 53 |

Explosive at the time of purchase

The main rule for purchasing explosive chemicals is to see if there are other compounds that can be used instead, and if not purchase as little as possible. More information can be found at the UoB web-site regarding explosive chemicals.

Containers with chemicals that are explosive at time of purchase shall be marked with:

  2. Date of acquisition
  3. Date when first used
  4. Signature of the person who first used it
  5. Date and signature for when the chemical was last controlled

Peroxide-forming compounds

Some organic and inorganic compounds can react with oxygen in the air to form potentially explosive peroxides. Peroxide formation is accelerated when the substances are exposed to light and heat. Users who handle these chemicals must learn to recognise and handle them properly. The most common peroxide-forming compounds are listed at the UoB web-site.

Bottles containing peroxide-forming substances must have labels specifying the:

  1. Date of acquisition
  2. Date when first used
  3. Signature of the person who first used it
  4. Date and signature for when the chemical was last controlled

It is also a great help if bottles are labelled “PEROXIDE-FORMING”. Chemicals categorised as peroxides must be inspected before use to see whether peroxide has formed. Test strips are available to check for peroxides.

You must check chemicals for peroxides every quarter (every three months) when stored after the bottles have been opened. If you detect peroxide, it must either be removed or disposed of as hazardous waste, see bellow. If the concentration exceeds 400 ppm (mg/l) but is less than 3000 ppm, the substance must be disposed of as hazardous waste.

If the peroxide-forming substance has been open and not in use for a year, it is recommended that it is disposed as hazardous waste.

Never use a metal spatula when working with peroxides.

Contamination of metals can create explosive degradation products. Bear also in mind that most peroxide-forming chemicals are volatile and easy to ignite. Always work in well ventilated fume cupboards and avoid ignition sources.

Peroxide and peroxide-forming compounds must be stored at the lowest possible temperature, protected from light and heat. If a refrigerator is used for storage, ensure that it is suitable for this purpose.

Do not test or handle peroxide-forming chemicals if you are unsure of their age, if the bottle has been opened but not tested for two years, if there are visible crystals or sediment, or if viscous oil layers have formed.


Glass equipment

Examine glass equipment before use. Chipped or cracked glass must be discarded or delivered for repair. Glass equipment must have rounded/filed edges to avoid injuries from cuts. When using an apparatus put together from ground glass, be aware that parts may become stuck together, making it difficult or impossible to separate them (e.g. rotary evaporators or stopcocks on burettes). This can be avoided by lubricating the glass grinder with a little silicone grease

NB! Avoid sudden changes of temperature when handling glass.

Vacuum and pressure apparatus

Only use glass apparatus designed to withstand vacuums, and check that the equipment has no defects. If equipment under vacuum implodes, fragments of glass will fly through the air as in an explosion.

Test apparatus operated under pressure must not be fully opened before the pressure has been equalised with the surroundings. This is particularly important if the apparatus under pressure contains flammable gases, since these may ignite as a result of heat generation.

Apparatus which is operated under pressure for long periods of time should be equipped with a safety valve and manometer. Ensure that the hoses used can withstand overpressure and are resistant to the substance in question. Desiccators under high vacuum must be secured in case of implosion, e.g. by placing them in fume cupboards or placing a grating around them. 


It is important that test tubes are balanced when centrifuging. This is particularly important at high centrifugal speeds. Ensure that the rotor is mounted according to the instructions and that any lids are fastened to the rotor.

Using a gas burner

Ensure that gas burners and hoses are in good working order. Some gas burners may “burn on the inside”. This is due to insufficient draught (low air supply). Bunsen burners must be set on low flame before being ignited.

Boiling of chemicals

A liquid that is being boiled or have boiled for a while may start to boil violently, causing splashing. This can be avoided using boiling stones or a magnetic stirrer. When boiling solutions that foam, it can help to use a magnetic stirrer instead of boiling stones. Boiling stones are usually made from pumices, porcelain shards, unglazed insulation pearls or anthracite coal.

Add boiling stones BEFORE the liquid is boiling, if they are added while boiling the result might be similar to an explosion.

Additional information

Refer to the web page of the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration for:

  • use of personal safety equipment in the workplace
  • noise in the workplace
  • reproductive harm and working environment
  • laboratory related safety and working environment

Refer to the for:

  • Guidelines for disposal of hazardous and problematic waste at UoB
  • Treatment of waste

Regulations can be found and conatins (Norwegian website only):

  • structure and use of the electronic chemical inventory for hazardous substances in the business
  • classification, labelling and more, regarding hazardous chemicals
  • protection against exposure of chemicals in the workplace