General Employee Guidelines

Procedures & Precautions Regarding:

Chemical Hazards First Aid
Laboratory Safety Animal Bites
Bloodborne Pathogens Hazardous Waste Disposal
Tuberculosis Biomedical Waste Disposal
Personal Protective Equipment Disposal of Broken Glassware
Safety Equipment Emergency Procedures
Chemical Safety

Employee Guide

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)andEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulationsapply to all employees at the University of Oklahoma.This handbook was developed to serve as a reference to employees and is not intended to reflect the full text of the policies and procedures of OU. Additional health and safety precautions and procedures established by individual departments or laboratories must also be followed by employees at all times.


It is important to know about the products and chemicals you are working with so you can protect yourself from overexposure and know procedures to take in the event of an emergency. The Oklahoma Hazard Communication Standard provides the following methods to identify potential chemical hazards.


Read everything on the label; it is there for a reason. Information found on a label includes:

  • chemical components
  • hazard or toxicity data, including a description of the hazard such as flammable or corrosive, and routes of entry
  • directions for proper use, storage, handling, and disposal
  • directions for treatment/first aid following accidental exposure or misuse
  • spill control procedures
  • recommended protective equipment

Every container in the work area must be labeled with the chemical or product name, the chemical constituents of the product, and an appropriate hazard warning. All containers should be labeled with this information upon receipt from a vendor - if they are not, contact your instructor or the EHSO to determine why or what can be done. Labels on containers should not be defaced or removed while the chemical is still in the container.

If a chemical has a damaged or missing label, alert your instructor so that appropriate labeling can occur.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)

Manufacturers are required to submit material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for products sold to the University. MSDSs contain detailed information about the hazards of the chemical. MSDSs also contain a 24-hour emergency number should additional information be required. An MSDS should be available for every hazardous chemical present in the work area. If one is not available, ask your supervisor or contact the Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHSO) at 271-3000.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Diamond

The NFPA Diamond is a symbol system designed for facilities to inform emergency responders of the types and quantities of hazardous materials stored or used in a facility. Three of the four diamonds provide a rating of the hazards in health (blue), flammability (red), and reactivity (yellow). The rating is from 0 (least hazardous) to 4 (most hazardous). The fourth diamond (white) provides special information such as radioactivity or water reactivity.


All OU employees who may, during the course of their employment, be exposed under normal conditions of work or in a reasonable foreseeable emergency to hazardous chemicals, materials and/or conditions (just about every single OU employee) must receive annual hazard communication training. This training may be provided by the department or completed on-line at new_logon.asp (OUHSC and OU-Tulsa employees) or (OU-Norman employees).


Basic laboratory safety rules are as follows.

1. No running, jumping, or horseplay is permitted in laboratories.
2. All biohazardous, hazardous, and radioactive materials must be properly labeled and stored. Chemical fume hoods or biological safety cabinets are not appropriate storage locations. Use flammable and acid storage cabinets and explosion-proof refrigerators when appropriate.
3. Stairways, hallways, exits, and access to emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers, safety showers, and eyewash fountains must be kept clear.
4. No eating, drinking, applying cosmetics, or smoking is allowed in areas where hazardous materials are stored or used.
5. Always thoroughly wash your hands before eating or smoking, on completion of work, and after manipulating radioisotopes.
7. Do not store food or drinks in refrigerators, freezers, or containers designated for chemical, biohazardous, or radioactive storage.
8. Compressed gas cylinders must be secured at all times, including during transport and when empty. Cylinder caps must be in place when the cylinder is not in use.
9. Do not work alone in a laboratory.
10. Laboratory coats and other protective clothing worn in the laboratory area are not to be worn outside the laboratory.
11. Sandals, open-toed, or perforated shoes should not be worn in the laboratory. 
12. Do not pipette by mouth.
13. Never dispose of a hazardous, biohazardous, or radioactive substance down the drain or in the trash.
14. Radioactive material usage areas and animal facilities must have controlled access that is strictly enforced. Laboratory areas should not be left unattended unless the area has been secured. 
15. Report any accidental exposure (inhalation, ingestion, skin contact, or injection), injury, or spills to your supervisdorimmediately.

Additional laboratory safety guidelines are found in the OUHSC/OU-Tulsa Laboratory Safety Manual, a copy of which is present in every laboratory.


OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogen regulation covers employees with occupational exposure to human blood or other potentially infectious material, including human tissues and human cell lines used in laboratory procedures. "Occupational exposure" means reasonably anticipated eye, skin, mucous membrane or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials. These precautions include the following.

1. Universal precautions should be observed to prevent contact with human blood or other potentially infectious material. Universal precautions, as developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), states that all human blood and certain body fluids should be treated as if infectious for hepatitis B, HIV, and/or other bloodborne pathogens. 
2. Hospital procedures require the use of “standard precautions” which includes wearing gloves for protection against blood and all body fluids, secretions, and excretions except sweat, regardless of whether or not they contain visible blood.
3. Personal protective equipment should be used where the potential for exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials exists as follows:

  • Gloves should be worn when hand contact with blood or other potentially infectious material is likely to occur.
  • Face protection (masks and safety glasses or face shields) should be worn whenever splashes of blood or other infectious material to the eye, nose, or mouth can be reasonably expected.
  • Protective clothing (gowns, surgical caps, shoe covers etc.) should be worn when exposure to those parts if the body may be anticipated.

4. All garments should be removed as soon as possible if penetrated by blood or other potentially infectious material. Do not take them home to wash them. Notify your supervisor if contamination occurs.
5. All personal protective equipment should be removed before leaving the work area and placed in a designated area.
6. Handwashing should occur immediately or as soon as feasible after removal of gloves, after contamination, and after contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials.
7. Do not recap or remove contaminated needles.
8. Contaminated sharps should be placed in appropriate containers which are puncture resistant, labeled or color-coded (red or red/orange), and leak-proof on the sides and bottom.
9. Eating, drinking, smoking, applying cosmetics or lip balm, and handling contact lenses is prohibited in areas where exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials may occur.
10. Food or drink should not be stored in areas where blood or other potentially infectious materials are present.
11. Procedures should be used which minimize spraying, splashing, spattering, and generation of droplets of infectious material.
12. No mouth pipetting should occur.
13. Specimens of blood should be placed in a labeled or color-coded container which prevents leakage during collection, storage, transport, or shipping. 
14. All equipment and working surfaces should be decontaminated after contact with blood or potentially infectious material.
15. Employees with occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials should receive annual training and be offered the hepatitis B vaccination series. Contact your campus Employee Health Clinic for additional information.


Eye Protection

Eye protection is required whenever there is the potential for flying particles or splash of a hazardous or infectious material. This applies not only to persons who work continuously in these areas, but also to persons who may be in the area only temporarily. The type of eye protection required depends on the hazard. Regular eyeglasses are not sufficient. For most situations, safety glasses with side shields are adequate. Other additional protective devices should be used in the following situations.

  • Potential chemical splash - splash goggle with splash-proof sides.
  • Potential splash of highly corrosive material - face shield and splash goggles.
  • Flying particles - impact protection goggles.
  • Laser, ultraviolet, infrared, or intense visible light - specialized protection for the wavelength of light present.
If chemical vapors or liquids contact the eyes, these steps should be followed:
  • If wearing contact lenses, immediately remove the lenses.
  • Continuously flush the eyes for at least 15 minutes.
  • The instructor or laboratory supervisor should be notified and arrangements should be made to provide medical assistance.
  • Someone knowledgeable about the incident should accompany the injured person to the medical facility and a copy of any appropriate MSDS(s) should accompany the victim if hazardous materials are involved.

After use, eye protection equipment should be cleaned prior to reuse.


Unless the worker is wearing a laboratory coat, loose or torn clothing should be avoided due to the potential for ignitability, absorption, and entanglement in machinery. Remove dangling jewelry and pull back excessively long hair, which can pose the same type of safety hazard. Finger rings or other tight jewelry which cannot be easily removed should be avoided because of the danger of corrosive or irritating liquids getting underneath the piece and producing irritation. Rings can also puncture gloves.

Laboratory coats should be worn when working with hazardous or infectious materials. Laboratory coats worn in the laboratory area for protection against hazardous or infectious material should not be worn outside the laboratory (this is especially true of cadaver laboratories).

Shoes must be worn at all times when working with hazardous or infectious materials. Sandals, open-toed shoes, and perforated shoes should not be worn because of the danger of spillage of corrosive or irritating chemicals and the potential of cuts from broken glassware.


Protective gloves must be worn when a potential skin exposure exists or where there is a potential for accidental spills or contamination. There is no glove currently available that will protect against all chemicals. Read the label, MSDS, or literature provided by glove manufacturers to select the proper glove.

General recommendations are as follows.

  • For concentrated acids and alkalis or organic solvents, natural rubber, neoprene, or nitrile gloves are recommended.
  • For handling hot objects, gloves made of heat-resistant materials should be available and kept near the vicinity of ovens or muffle furnaces. A hot object should never be picked up with rubber, plastic, or asbestos gloves.
  • For handling very cold objects such as liquid N2 or CO2, special insulated gloves should be worn.
  • For handling potentially infectious materials, nitrile or powder-free latex gloves should be used.

Gloves should be inspected before each use for discoloration, punctures, and tears. Before removal, non-disposable gloves should be thoroughly washed, either with tap water or soap and water. Contaminated gloves should be removed in such a manner as to limit contamination of the hands from the soiled gloves.

Hands should always be washed after removal of gloves, regardless of whether they have obvious contamination. Always remove gloves before leaving the immediate work site to prevent contamination of door knobs, light switches, telephones, etc.


The use of N-95 respirators is required when in the presence of known or suspected tuberculosis or H1N1patients (surgical masks are not acceptable). Particulate respirators should be used when dust is generated, such as during grinding operations. Respirator use for chemical exposures is usually not required if adequate precautions are taken, such as working in a chemical fume hood.

Please contact the EHSO at 405/271-3000 (Oklahoma City) or 918/660-3878 (Tulsa) if you are asked to wear a respirator. Fit testing the respirator and special training is required if respirators are worn.


Fire Extinguishers

There are five different types of fires:

  • Type A - ordinary combustibles such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber and many plastics
  • Type B - flammable liquids, such as gasoline, oil, grease, tar, oil-based paint, lacquer, and flammable gas
  • Type C - energized electrical equipment, including wiring, computers, fuse boxes, circuit breakers, machinery and appliances
  • Type D - combustible metals such as magnesium and potassium
  • Type K - kitchen/grease fires

Most of the fire extinguishers on our campus are ABC, which can be used on any of the above types of fires except Type D.

Do not use a water fire extinguisher on a Type C (electrical) fire.

In the event of a fire, immediately call OUHSC Police at 405/271-4911 (Oklahoma City) or 911 (all other locations). Use stairwells, not elevators, to exit buildings.

If you choose to use a fire extinguisher, remember PASS:
  • Pull the pin
  • Aim the discharge toward the base of the flames
  • Squeeze the handle
  • Sweep from side to side

Do not aim the fire extinguisher directly onto the source, as it may spread the flames. Begin approximately 8-10 feet away from the flames.

Fire Doors

Do not prop fire doors or fire exits open. In the event of a fire or fire alarm, fire doors will automatically close or unlock depending on their purpose. After the alarm is over, magnetically released fire doors will have to be manually re-opened.

Be safe! Know in advance the following:
  • where the fire boxes are in your area
  • where the exit routes are in your area
  • where the extinguishers are located
Safety Showers
Safety showers are designed to flood the entire body in the event of a clothing fire or a major spill of hazardous liquid. In either case, the victim should stand under the shower and activate the shower by pulling on the handle. In the case of a hazardous liquid spill, remove that portion of the clothing affected to reduce potential contact while under the shower. To stop the flow of water, push the handle back up.
After using the safety shower, notify your instructor or laboratory supervisor as soon as possible and obtain medical care immediately.
Do not attempt to test safety showers, as no drains are provided. The EHSO tests them annually.

Eyewash Fountains

If a chemical splash in the eyes occurs, use the nearest eyewash fountain for immediate and thorough washing of the eyes. Push the handle down or use the foot pedal, then use your hands to open the eyelids to ensure thorough flushing. Always flood the eyes for at least 15 minutes to be sure there is no residue of the chemical. To stop the flow of water, pull the handle back or pull the foot pedal up. After thorough washing, notify your instructor or laboratory supervisor and obtain medical care immediately, even if there appears to be no damage.

If a drain is provided, eyewash fountains should be flushed frequently.


Spills should be reported to your instructor and cleaned immediately. Never assume gases or vapors do not exist or are harmless because of lack of smell.

Minor Chemical Spills

As a general rule, spills of 4 liters or less are considered a minor spill, depending on the chemical(s) involved. These spills can be safely addressed by knowledgeable laboratory personnel.

General procedures are as follows.

1. Know the locations of the emergency shower and eyewash ahead of time.
2. If the spilled material is flammable, turn off ignition and heat sources, if safe to do so.
3. Notify your instructor and nearby persons and evacuate as necessary. 
4. Close doors to the affected area.
5. If personnel are contaminated, remove contaminated clothing. Flush skin/eyes with water at least 15 minutes. Forcibly hold eyelids open to ensure effective wash under eyelids. Make sure chemicals have not accumulated in shoes. Obtain medical attention for the victim.
6. If University personnel are not available to properly clean the spill, contact the OUHSC Police at 405/271-4911 (Oklahoma City) or Campus Security at (918) 660-3333 (Tulsa).

Major Chemical Spills

In general, spills of greater than 4 liters or spills of highly toxic, reactive, or flammable materials should be considered a major spill. Management of these spills is the responsibility of specially trained and equipped personnel. General procedures are as follows.

1. Know the locations of the emergency shower and eye wash ahead of time.
2. Leave the spill site immediately and notify your instructor. The instructor should call the OUHSC Police at 405/271-4911 (Oklahoma City) or Campus Security at (918) 660-3333 (Tulsa).
3. Close doors to the affected area.
4. Remove injured persons, if safe to do so. Remove contaminated clothing. Flush skin/eyes with water at least 15 minutes. Forcibly hold eyelids open to ensure effective wash under eyelids. Make sure chemicals have not accumulated in shoes. Obtain medical attention for the victim. 
5. Isolate the area. Do not allow re-entry.
6. Assist response personnel by providing requested information, including identification and amount of material spilled.

Mercury Spills

Mercury vapors are odorless, colorless, and tasteless. A quantity as small as 1 milliliter can evaporate over time and potentially raise levels in excess of allowable limits. Mercury is also absorbed through the skin readily. Mercury poisoning from long-term exposure can cause health effects such as emotional disturbances, fatigue, memory loss, and headaches. Therefore, mercury spills should be reported to your instructor immediately.

If mercury has been spilled on the floor, take extra precaution to not step in the area. Mercury can absorb into leather readily and be a potential source of long-term exposure to the wearer.


Universal precautions should be used when responding to emergencies which provide potential exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials (see Bloodborne Pathogens, above).

The use of personal protective equipment (i.e., gloves, masks, and protective clothing) will provide a barrier between the responder and the exposure source. After emergency care has been administered, wash hands and other skin surfaces immediately and thoroughly with warm water and soap. Hands should always be washed after gloves are removed, even if the gloves appear to be intact.

If blood is splashed onto the unprotected skin or mucous membranes of persons other than the victim, wash the area with soap and water or flush the mucous membranes thoroughly. Immediately after washing or flushing, notify your instructor and obtain medical assistance.

After an emergency that involves blood is over, clean-up of blood may be required. Cleaning of blood spills should be limited to those persons who are trained for the task. Do not assume that housekeeping personnel will clean up the spill. Notify the OUHSC Police at 405/271-4911 (Oklahoma City) or Campus Security at (918) 660-3333 (Tulsa) to report the situation and they will assess the response needed.

If an untrained person encounters a bloody spill, limit access to the area and immediately call the OUHSC Police at 405/271-4911 (Oklahoma City) or Campus Security at (918) 660-3333 (Tulsa).


Procedures to follow in the event of an animal bite are as follows.

1. While wearing gloves, carefully express the wound and apply gentle pressure around the wound to encourage bleeding.
2. Rinse the wound under warm running water for 15 minutes and continue massaging the site.
3. Wash the wound and surrounding area with soap and water for 5 minutes; continue to rinse periodically. If available, rinse with normal saline.
4. Pat the injury dry using sterile gauze pads.
5. Cover the wound with a pad and secure it with gauze and tape.
6. Seek medical attention.


Under no circumstance is any person to dispose of a hazardous substance down the drain or in the trash without prior approval from the EHSO. Drain disposal is allowed only for the following substances:
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • bleach
  • some alcohols
  • blood products
Waste chemicals should be collected in separate containers segregated by categories so that spills or leaks would remain isolated from other wastes or chemicals. These categories include but are not necessarily limited to:
  • acids
  • bases
  • halogenated solvents
  • non-halogenated solvents
  • mercury wastes reactive chemicals wastes with high heavy metal contamination

If your laboratory or classroom does not have a chemical waste disposal system in place, notify your supervisor or contact the EHSO at 405/271-3000.


All sharps intended for disposal, whether contaminated or not, must be placed in a sharps container which is puncture-resistant, leak-proof on the sides and bottom, and color-coded or labeled with the biohazard symbol. Never clip or recap needles before putting them in the sharps container.

Untreated biomedical waste must be collected in a red bag or other container labeled with the biohazard symbol. Untreated biomedical waste must not be disposed in the regular trash.


All broken glass requires special handling and disposal procedures to prevent injury to personnel. Inspect all glassware before use. Do not use broken, chipped, starred or badly scratched glassware. If it cannot be repaired, broken glass should be discarded.

Disposal Procedures

There are potentially five types of broken glass that may be disposed in the OU waste stream. All broken glass should be disposed in a manner that will significantly reduce the potential for injury.

  • Food and Beverage Glassware - Recycle or dispose in a rigid, puncture-resistant acceptable container as described below.
  • Radioactive Glassware - Contact the Radiation Safety Office at 405/271-6121 for appropriate procedures.
  • Glassware with Biological Contamination - Biologically contaminated needles, syringes, broken glass, glass with sharp corners, microscope slides, pipettes, test tubes or thin-walled vials should be placed in a closeable, puncture resistant, leak-proof container that is red or labeled with a biohazard symbol.
  • Glassware with Chemical Contamination - Contact the EHSO for assistance.
  • Uncontaminated or Disinfected Glassware - Dispose of in a rigid, puncture-proof containers as described below.

Broken glassware that may be contaminated with chemicals, blood, or other potentially infectious materials should not be picked up directly with the hands. It should be cleaned using mechanical means, such as a brush and a dust pan, tongs, or forceps.

Acceptable Containers

All containers used for broken glass disposal should be puncture-resistant containers. A metal or thick plastic can or bucket with a sealing lid is ideal. If glassware is dry, a cardboard box may be used if all seams and edges are sealed or taped. Wet broken glassware should be dried, if possible, before disposal. If broken glass is wet, the cardboard boxes must be lined with one or more puncture-resistant plastic bags and the edges should be taped.

Clearly mark the container in large letters with the words "CLEAN BROKEN GLASS" before discarding in the solid waste stream. Limit quantities to approximately 5 to 10 pounds so that lifting of the box will not create a situation that could cause back injury.


IOn the Oklahoma City campus, emergency assistance may be obtained by contacting OUHSC Police at 405/271-4911. At the OU-Tulsa Schusterman Center, contact Campus Security at 918/660-3333. They will contact the appropriate response parties, such as the Fire Department or EMSA.

All other locations should call 911. Please note that if you call 911 from a campus telephone, you must tell the 911 operator exactly where the emergency is located.

All on-the-job injuries should be reported to your supervisor.

During business hours, minor occupational injuries or exposures may be treated at:

OUHSC: Contact Employee Health, Green Clinic, Family Medicine Building, 900 NE 10th St. at 405/271-3100.

OU-Tulsa: Contact the Tulsa and Employee Student Health Clinic at 918/619-4565

OU- Norman: Contact Goddard Health Center, 620 Elm Ave. at 405/325-4441.

Other safety tips and information are available on the following web site:

The EHSO strives to make safety a priority at OU. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact the EHSO as follows:

OUHSC - 405/271-3000

OU-Tulsa - 918/660-3828

OU-Norman - 405/325-5147