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University of Colorado Denver

Environmental Health and Safety, University of Colorado Denver

SDS and Chemical Hygiene


Chemicals are used throughout campus on a daily basis. When proper precautions are employed, most of these materials represent few hazards. Some examples of these precautions involve engineering controls such as proper workshop ventilation or using laboratory chemicals inside a fume hood. Other precautions include wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves or safety glasses. Examples of administrative controls to ensure safety include restricting access to areas where hazardous materials are used, training, or preventing the consumption of food in areas where hazardous chemicals are used.

In order to know what hazards the chemicals you work with present, you need to explore information about the products you use before you actually start working with the material. Sources of information are varied. For commercially available products, manufacturers are required by law to provide hazard information such as warning labels and material safety data sheets. For research materials developed internally, it is the responsibility of the developer/PI to define the unique hazards associated with the material and seek assistance from EHS to determine the proper precautions, controls, and medical surveillance.

Chemical Hygiene

Chemical exposures present various potential health hazards. Some exposures result in immediate acute responses (like a chemical burn), while others result from chronic or repeated exposures. The resulting response to exposures may be delayed. A latency period — such as for carcinogens — may be 15 to 30 years following exposures.

To avoid exposures, follow the recommendations for safe use and protective equipment and ensure that you also follow administrative rules established for your safety:

  • Do not bring food or beverages into the lab or shop area where chemicals or other hazardous materials are used.
  • Remove protective clothing (lab coat, shop apron, gloves, respirator, etc.) prior to exiting the work area and before handling keyboards, office phones, etc.
  • Wash hands upon exiting the work area (shop, lab, clinic) and always before eating, smoking, drinking or applying cosmetics.
  • If you must transport materials containers outside of the lab, ensure that the exterior is wiped clean or the container overpacked.

Refer to the Lab Safety Policies for additional information on laboratory safety policies, or contact EHS at 4-0242 for assistance with establishing proper handling procedures and controls specific to your work needs.

You should report exposures to hazardous materials to Risk Management. If you develop an illness you believe may be related to a work acquired exposure, you should report the condition to Risk Management even if you discover the illness after the actual exposures might have occurred.

Safety Data Sheet

A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is designed to provide workers with information regarding the hazards associated with chemical products and recommended precautions for safe handling and storage. SDS include information such as trade names, chemical composition, physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point etc.), health effects, recommended protective equipment, first aid measures, conditions to avoid, and in some cases disposal and spill procedures.

Supervisors are responsible for ensuring their employees have access to MSDS’s for all hazardous chemicals used in the workplace or laboratory. An SDS for the materials workers will use must be readily accessible to the worker. Access to SDSs can electronically or in hard copy, but if electronic — then the employee must have ready access to a computer and know how and where to obtain the proper SDS.

If an employee or student has an accident involving exposure to a hazardous material, take a copy of the SDS to the health care provider to inform treatment.

SDS Resources

It is preferable that you obtain a MSDS for your hazardous material from the actual manufacturer of the product you are working with. One should be provided with the shipment or available online through the manufacturer. The following are Internet accessible and searchable databases with MSDS for multiple manufacturers. Do not rely on an MSDS that is older than five years.

Principle Investigator Responsibilities

It is important for researchers to understand and define the unique hazards and required safety precautions related their research. When preparing research protocol descriptions, remember to include the unique safety precautions that should be employed while performing the various activities to be undertaken. The principal investigator (PI) is responsible for the training and safety of workers involved in their research activities.

When developing the proper safety procedures and when conducting training to the research staff, refer to the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) tab above for each material proposed for use in the research. This information should help inform the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), precautions for safe handling, emergency procedures, proper storage and segregation of chemicals, and appropriate first aid. It is important to include this information during protocol preparation and when applying for a radiation permit, animal use, or biosafety authorization.

In some cases, the use of specific pathogens or chemicals necessitates that workers enroll in a medical surveillance program. For more information or assistance contact EHS at 4-0242.

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