The Catholic University of America

Laboratory Safety and Security Policy 

Approved by:



Issued    -- May 19, 2003



Revised  -- January 20, 2015



Additional History

Related Policies:

Employee Responsibility PolicyEnvironmental Health and Safety Manual; Information Security and Assurance PolicyRadiation Safety ManualSafety and Protection of the Environment Policy

Additional References:

Environmental Health and Safety – Laboratory SafetyEnvironment Health and Safety website

Responsible Official:

Provost tel. (202) 319-5244


I.       Policy
Pursuant to the Safety and Protection of the Environment Policy, members of the University community are responsible for assisting the University in maintaining a safe and healthful place to learn and work, as well as for compliance with federal and local laws, and campus environmental health and safety standards and policies in the activities and areas under their control.
The Principal Investigator of a laboratory has primary responsibility for promoting health and safety therein. Nevertheless, all Laboratory Personnel (defined below) are responsible for knowing and following the requirements set forth in this policy, and in the Environmental Health and Safety Manual, regarding laboratory safety and security.  Violations of this policy can result in serious injury or loss of University assets, and may result in disciplinary action.
II.         Definitions
A.         Laboratory, for the purposes of this policy, means University spaces where research or educational activities are undertaken that involve the use of:
1.          Radiation, lasers, power tools, welding equipment, or other devices or machinery with the potential for physical injury;
2.          Toxins, pathogens, animals or other living organisms; or
3.          Chemicals, flammable substances or other hazardous materials.
Spaces that meet the foregoing criteria typically are operated by: the Departments of Biology, Chemistry and Physics, including the Vitreous State Laboratory; the Schools of Engineering and Architecture; and the Drama Department.
For the purposes of this policy the term laboratories does not include spaces such as computer, psychology or other clinical spaces termed “laboratories” unless such spaces otherwise meet the criteria above.
B.         Laboratory Personnel means Principal Investigators, laboratory managers, research assistants, visiting scholars, or other University faculty, staff or students working in a laboratory.
C.         Principal Investigator, for the purposes of this policy, means an individual, regardless of title, who is responsible for the design and conduct of research conducted in a laboratory.
D.         Qualified University Employee means Laboratory Personnel and any University employee expressly authorized to enter or perform work in a laboratory (e.g. repair or maintenance personnel).  For the purposes of this policy, “University employee” includes long-term contractors hired to perform University functions related to laboratory safety and management (e.g. laboratory inspections, safety training, waste management, etc.)
III.         Laboratory Safety
The health and safety of individuals working in or near University laboratories is of paramount importance. The Principal Investigator of a laboratory serves as the Chemical Hygiene Officer for that laboratory, and as such has primary responsibility for promoting health and safety therein. However, all Laboratory Personnel must share that responsibility.  Accordingly, to promote health and safety, and to comply with applicable regulations governing activities that take place in laboratories, all Laboratory Personnel must be familiar with the following requirements.
            A.         Familiarity with University Procedures
All Laboratory Personnel must be familiar with the provisions applicable to laboratory activities as set forth in the University’s Environmental Health and Safety Manual.  The Manual provides guidance and requirements including, but not limited to the following important areas:
     Handling, storage and disposal of hazardous materials
     Radiation safety
     Chemical safety and toxicology
     Laser safety
     Personal protective equipment (PPE)
B.         Required Training
Prior to beginning work in a laboratory, and annually thereafter, all Laboratory Personnel are required to undergo laboratory safety training as provided by Environmental Health and Safety.  Laboratory Personnel also must complete any required training pertaining to the specific activities undertaken in the laboratory prior to undertaking such activities.  The Principal Investigator for the specific laboratory must confirm that all Laboratory Personnel have completed required training. Information regarding required trainings is located on the Environmental Health and Safety website
            C.         Accidents, Injuries and Illnesses
In the event of an accident, injury or illness in the laboratory, contact the Department of Public Safety immediately at tel. (202) 319-5111.  Public Safety will notify the appropriate personnel per the University’s Campus Security Notification List. See Environmental Health and Safety Manual – Accidents, Injuries and Illnesses for further information.
IV.        Laboratory Security
Laboratories contain valuable research equipment, samples, work in progress, notes and data. They also contain potentially hazardous materials, such as chemicals, biological agents, and radioactive substances. All of these University assets must be protected from unauthorized access or removal, theft, or mishandling.
The Principal Investigator of a laboratory has primary responsibility for protecting these University assets. However, all Laboratory Personnel, as well as Qualified University Employees who access the laboratories, must take precautions to protect against unauthorized access or removal, theft, or mishandling of items found in the laboratories as set forth below. Security measures should correspond to the potential risks in the specific laboratory.
Research and/or other activities involving the use of laboratory space, materials, or equipment may only be undertaken with the knowledge and approval of the responsible Principal Investigator.
In order to safeguard laboratories and the data/materials contained therein, all Laboratory Personnel are, at a minimum, to comply with the security requirements set forth below.
            A.         Security Requirements
      Limit access to laboratories.  Keep laboratory doors closed and locked unless a Qualified University Employee (defined above) is actually present.
       Question the presence of unfamiliar/suspicious individuals in laboratories and/or building common areas. Report all such persons and/or suspicious activity immediately to Public Safety at tel. (202) 319-5111.
      Report any disruptive individual immediately to the Department of Public Safety at tel. (202) 319-5111.  Disruptive individuals may be removed from laboratories per the University’sEmployee Responsibility PolicyCode of Student Conduct, and Removal of Student from a Course for Disruptive Behavior Policy.
       Normally, laboratory building exterior doors are secured after designated business hours. To minimize the likelihood of unauthorized access, all after-hours building users must:
•     Avoid providing building access to unfamiliar individuals;
•     Secure doors behind themselves; and
•     Report any building security issues to the Department of Public Safety immediately after securing their own safety.
       Do not give laboratory keys to contractors who are not Qualified University Employees; such contractors doing work in a laboratory must be let in and periodically monitored by a Qualified University Employee.
B.         Requirements for Securing Documents, Data, Equipment and Materials
       Secure important research documents, equipment and experimental materials (e.g., lab notebooks, samples, hazardous substances) in locked areas.
       Secure devices capable of storing sensitive information or data (such as computer disks, magnetic tape, flash drives, smartphones, or tablets) in locked areas.
       The Principal Investigator or his or her designee must maintain a detailed, up-to-date inventory of all chemical, biological, radioactive or other regulated substances kept in the laboratory and have it readily available for review.
       Secure access to your computer, and report suspected unauthorized access in accordance with the University’s Information Security and Assurance Policy.
       Report potentially missing materials, documents, samples, etc., immediately to the Principal Investigator upon discovery.  Once the Principal Investigator has confirmed the loss, the Principal Investigator should report it to the Department of Public Safety at tel. 202-319-5111.  Report missing data immediately to Technology Services or the Department of Public Safety.