Quick Reference Safety Tips

Top Four Departmental Safety Rules:

  1. Always wear safety glasses and lab coats.
  2. Always wear long pants and closed-toed shoes.
  3. No food or drink in the labs.
  4. Remove lab coat and gloves when leaving the lab (unless transporting hazardous materials).

Strategies to Limit Chemical Exposure

  • Substitute a less hazardous chemical when possible.
  • Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, eye protection, and lab coats.
  • Work in fume hoods or glovebox.
  • Don’t eat, drink, or chew gum in the lab; don’t store food or beverage containers near chemicals.
  • Be careful when handling needles.
  • Don’t wear gloves/lab coats outside of the lab.
  • Wash lab clothing separately from personal clothing.

Hydrofluoric Acid Safety

  • Hydrofluoric Acid (HF) is one of the most acutely toxic chemicals.
  • There is no concentration of HF that can be relied upon as safe.
  • As little as 7 ml of anhydrous HF in contact with the skin untreated can bind all of the free calcium in an adult.
  • With burns involving greater than 25 square inches, significant and sometimes fatal hypocalcaemia can occur.
  • There is no material that is completely resistant to HF degradation.

HF is a clear, colorless liquid. It is corrosive and may cause severe burns to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. Pain may not be immediate upon contact but begins as hydrogen fluoride penetrates deep into the bone. Chronic exposure can lead to irreversible bone damage.

Working with Nanomaterials

TiO2 nanoparticles are considered a potential occupational carcinogen if inhaled by OSHA.

Always use proper PPE when working with nanomaterials, including respirators and a HEPA-filtered hood.

Working Alone in the Lab

If you must work alone:

  • Use the buddy system: don’t work without someone else knowing where you are and what you are working on.
  • Make arrangements to check on each other periodically.

Be smart:

  • Limit activity to certain hours when people may be nearby.
  • Limit activity with certain materials.
  • Establish a system to contact help immediately.
  • Be familiar with the chemicals and equipment. Do not plan to start new experiments


The Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering, established in 1948, is recognized as one of the largest and most influential chemical engineering departments in the nation.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry.

Department of Chemical Engineering

121 Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2574