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Chapter 1 - Introduction

The Cornell University Health and Safety Policy 8.6 outlines safety responsibilities and training requirements to ensure individual and institutional compliance with relevant environmental health and safety laws, regulations, policies, and guidelines. This Laboratory Safety Manual includes the University’s Chemical Hygiene Plan and recommendations for good laboratory practices to serve as a useful resource and to assist laboratories in designing their own site-specific laboratory safety procedures to meet these requirements.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation 29 CFR 1910.1450, "Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories”, mandates health and safety practices and procedures in laboratories that use hazardous chemicals. The Standard became effective May 1, 1990 and requires that a Chemical Hygiene Plan be developed for each laboratory workplace. The purpose of the Laboratory Standard is to protect laboratory employees from harm due to chemicals while they are working in a laboratory. This regulation applies to all employers engaged in the laboratory use of hazardous chemicals which OSHA defines as:

"Laboratory" means 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 non-production basis.

"Laboratory scale" means 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. "Laboratory scale" excludes those workplaces whose function is to produce commercial quantities of materials.

Hazardous chemical” 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 which are carcinogens, toxic or highly toxic agents, reproductive toxins, irritants, corrosives, sensitizers, hepatotoxins, nephrotoxins, neurotoxins, agents which act on the hematopoietic systems and agents which damage the lungs, skins, eyes, or mucous membranes. Appendix A and Appendix B of the Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) provide further guidance in defining the scope of health hazards and determining whether or not a chemical is to be considered hazardous for the purposes of this standard.

A complete description of definitions applicable to laboratories can be found in the OSHA Laboratory Standard.

In all other areas that use chemicals, but do not fall under the OSHA definition of a “laboratory”, the OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.1200 – "Hazard Communication Standard” applies.

Most laboratories at Cornell using chemicals are subject to the requirements of the Laboratory Standard. In addition to employees who ordinarily work full-time within a laboratory space, other employees (such as office, custodial, maintenance and repair personnel) who regularly spend a significant amount of their time within a laboratory environment as part of their duties, also may fall under the requirements of the Laboratory Standard. OSHA considers graduate students who get paid for working in a lab as employees who are subject to the requirements of the Laboratory Standard.

The OSHA Laboratory Standard requires employers to develop a Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP), designate a Chemical Hygiene Officer, and ensure laboratory employees are provided with the proper information and training, including knowing the location of the Chemical Hygiene Plan, and how to work safely in their labs. The main goals of the OSHA Laboratory Standard and the requirement to develop a Chemical Hygiene Plan are; to protect employees from health hazards associated with use of hazardous chemicals in the laboratory, and keep exposures below the permissible exposure limits as specified in 29 CFR Part 1910, subpart Z – Toxic and Hazardous Substances and other resources such as NIOSH and ACGIH.  In addition to other requirements, the OSHA Lab Standard specifies the Chemical Hygiene Plan to include “criteria the employer will use to determine and implement control measures to reduce employee exposure to hazardous chemicals including engineering controls, the use of personal protective equipment and hygiene practices; particular attention shall be given to the selection of control measures for chemicals that are known to be extremely hazardous.”

Cornell EHS has taken responsibility for maintaining an institutional Chemical Hygiene Plan. Each college, center, department, or laboratory may adopt or modify this plan or write their own chemical hygiene plan as long as the requirements of the OSHA Laboratory Standard are met. It is assumed if a college, center, department, or laboratory has not developed their own chemical hygiene plan, then that unit or laboratory has adopted the Cornell University Chemical Hygiene Plan. The Cornell University CHP is maintained by the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). The campus CHP is designed to supplement department and laboratory specific safety manuals and procedures that already address chemical safety in laboratories.