Laboratory Safety

James Cook University is committed to providing a safe workplace for staff, students and visitors to the University.  The University recognises the need to protect students, staff and the environment from potential hazards associated with laboratory activities.

The work in laboratories may also trigger requirements of other JCU procedures due to the use of:

  • Pathogens or biological sources (JCU Biosafety Procedure)
  • Contain radiation apparatus or isotopes (JCU Radiation Procedure)
  • Contain hazardous chemicals (JCU Hazardous Chemicals Procedure)
  • Drugs and poisons (JCU Drugs and Poisons Procedure)

Space identified by JCU Estate Directorate and the relevant Division as a Laboratory.

This could include any part of a building that is used for scientific or technical work that may involve chemicals, pathogens, radiation, mechanical or other processes.

The following rules apply as a minimum to all laboratories:

  • Unauthorised entry to the laboratory is strictly forbidden
  • No food or drink for human consumption is to enter, or to be consumed within a laboratory
  • Staff and all students (undergraduate, honours and postgraduates) must obtain permission to access the laboratory out of hours.
  • Laboratory waste must be disposed of correctly and not flushed to sewage unless the conditions in the JCU Laboratory Safety Procedure have been met.
  • Enclosed footwear must be worn
  • Personal protective equipment is to be worn as specified
  • Safety glasses to be worn when handling hazardous substances
  • Long / mid length hair and scarves shall be tied back
  • Loose clothing secured and jewellery removed when using equipment with moving parts
  • Children are not permitted in laboratories
  • When leaving microbiological laboratories remove laboratory coats and wash hands
  • Mouth pipetting is prohibited
  • Experiments which will be left running overnight must have an “unattended experiment card” filled in specifying contact details of researcher, hazards and steps to be taken in an emergency.  The experiment must be appropriately secured/isolated for the time period
  • Do not use any machines, equipment or laboratory apparatus without prior instruction / training by the supervisor or technical staff on Safe Operating Procedures and practices. Whilst using any equipment the relevant SOP shall be adhered to
  • Unless required, windows both internally and externally to the building are not to be covered

All laboratory users are required to be inducted into the laboratories being used. Inductions must be developed for each laboratory. Laboratory/Division, building-specific information is determined by considering the activities carried out, the equipment and materials used and stored in that particular laboratory.

Refresher inductions must be undertaken at least every two years. However inductions may need to be refreshed in the following circumstances:

  • Legislative change and / or changes to the JCU HSMS requirements
  • Hazards in the area change due to new equipment, materials or activities
  • Following an incident

Induction records must include the name and signature of the inductee, inductor and the date the induction was undertaken. The induction record must be retained in accordance with JCU Records Management Policy.

The clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE) that is required is dependent on the type of laboratory, the activities carried out and the materials and equipment stored within the laboratory.

As a minimum, the following protective clothing must be worn in every JCU controlled laboratory:

  • Enclosed footwear must meet the following requirements:
    • No open toes
    • Back of the heel to be covered
    • Upper surface must be enclosed
    • Equivalent coverage and protection as provided by a running/jogging shoe
  • Laboratory coat or back fastening laboratory gowns ( Cotton is recommended)
  • Safety glasses are to be worn when handling hazardous substances

A risk assessment must be undertaken to assess hazards associated with the activities, equipment and substances used within the laboratory to determine any additional PPE that is mandated.

Mandatory PPE and clothing requirements must be clearly displayed at the entrance of the laboratory. These requirements must also be stipulated in the laboratory induction.

The laboratory supervisor is to ensure that staff are trained in the use of Personal Protective


Mandatory PPE must be readily available upon entry to the laboratory.

All PPE must be appropriately rated for the intended hazard and be appropriately stored and maintained by the user to ensure it remains effective to control the identified hazard(s).

A Residual Current Device (RCD) is to be fitted to the circuits of all laboratories.

If electrical equipment is located in a laboratory which could be considered a ‘hostile environment’ the equipment will need to be included in the electrical test and tag program.

A hostile environment is a location in which the equipment or appliance is normally subject to events or operating conditions likely to result in damage to the equipment or a reduction in its expected lifespan.

This includes, but is not limited to mechanical damage, exposure to moisture, heat, vibration, corrosive chemicals and dust.

  • An inventory of hazardous chemicals must be maintained:
    • The preferred method is to enter the inventory into the Chem Watch system
    • The inventory must include the maximum storage amount for each item
  • Safety data sheets must be available
  • All substances must be labelled in accordance with Schedule 9 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (Qld)
  • A risk assessment is to be completed for the use of all hazardous substances.  The assessment will need to include the various ways the substance will be used
  • Keep the minimum quantity required
  • Treat containers as if full, unless cleaned and label removed
    • Exception being labelled laboratory glassware or similar items that are identified as clean and are awaiting reuse
  • Spill trays should be used for containers. The spill tray will need to be able to hold 110% of the largest container
  • Use substances within fume cupboards to reduce the potential for exposure
  • Substances should not be left open within the laboratory or storage areas.

Storage Other Than in a Chemical Storage Cabinet

Chemicals that are kept on shelves or racks shall be subject to the following restrictions:

  • Substances should not be stored higher than 1.5m from the floor shelves over benches
  • Shelving and fixtures shall be compatible with the goods stored, or be protected from the goods
  • The shelving system capacity is not to be exceeded
  • Shelves must be restrained from lateral movement
  • Liquids should be stored on the lower shelves

The quantities of hazardous chemicals other than those in a chemical storage cabinet shall not exceed those specified in in the table below.

The quantities are an accumulation of the type of substance not a limit per item.

Table: AS/NZS 2243.10:2004 Storage Other Than in a Chemical Storage Cabinet

Type of substance
or Class of
dangerous goods

Maximum per
50 m2
kg or L

Maximum pack
kg or L

Conditions for storage

storage options

Class 3 primary or



Labelled standard laboratory
cupboard or in small amounts
throughout the laboratory

AS 1940 or
AS/NZS 3833




Labelled standard laboratory
cupboard or in small amounts
throughout the laboratory

AS 1940 or
AS/NZS 3833

Classes 4.1, 4.2,
4.3, 5.1 or 5.2
(see Note 1)

20 but less than
10 of any one


Labelled standard laboratory
cupboard or, for Classes 4.1,
4.3 and 5.1, in small amounts
throughout the laboratory

AS 2714 or
AS/NZS 3833

Class 6.1

PG I 10 (Note 2)
Other 50

PG I 10 (Note 2)
Other 20

Labelled standard laboratory
cupboard or in small amounts
throughout the laboratory

AS/NZS 4452 or
AS/NZS 3833

Class 8

20 for liquids
50 for solids


Labelled standard laboratory
cupboard or in small amounts
throughout the laboratory

AS 3780 or
AS/NZS 3833

Class 9 and

50 for liquids
100 for solids

5 for liquids
20 for solids

Labelled standard laboratory
cupboard or in small amounts
throughout the laboratory

AS/NZS 4681 or
AS/NZS 3833

aggregate quantity





5 for liquids
20 for solids

Labelled standard laboratory
cupboard or in small amounts
throughout the laboratory


(Note 1)The quantities for Class 5.1 stated in the Table are the total amount of active ingredient present, rather
than the actual volume or mass to allow for the very wide differences between concentrations of active
ingredient in peroxides and hypochlorites that are commonly used in laboratories.

Chemical storage cabinets

  • The capacity of any chemical storage cabinet used in a laboratory to store chemicals of Classes 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.1 or 5.2 shall not exceed 50 L. For other chemicals, the capacity shall not exceed 250 L.
  • Cannot be located where they can jeopardize emergency escape (eg under a stair case) or 3m from an exit door.
  • Not closer than 3m to ignition sources other than ceiling lights
  • Must have the bottom shelf installed.
  • Cannot have substances stored in the bund
  • Must be correctly labelled for the class of substance.

The use of cryogenic liquids must comply with the following:

  • The container must be labelled in accordance with AS 1894-1997 the storage and handling of non-flammable cryogenic and refrigerated liquids
  • The capacity of a container shall not exceed 250L
  • The cryogenic liquids shall not be stored within unventilated rooms such as cold rooms
  • People are not to travel with cryogenic containers within a lift.  The cryogenic container can be placed in the lift by itself
  • A risk assessment must be conducted by:
    • The laboratory supervisor for existing installations; or
    • Person proposing to use the gas cylinders; or
    • As part of the design of any new gas installation (including in new buildings)
  • The assessment will need to include Calculations to determine:
  • Potential for oxygen depletion and asphyxiation.
  • Need for any oxygen monitoring or fail safe mechanisms and other controls.
  • Transport (example external to vehicle cabins).

Where flammable or toxic cryogenic liquids are required in a laboratory, the additional requirements apply:

  • The capacity of the container shall not exceed 5L
  • The container shall be kept in a specially ventilated extraction enclosure exhausting to atmosphere
  • Cryogenic liquids that are flammable or toxic shall not be stored in a laboratory
  • The risk assessment must also include assessment of:
  • Exposure to the relevant exposure standard.
  • Fire and explosion.

Where it has been deemed that atmospheric gas alarms are required, the systems must be maintained.   The detection system must be appropriate in installation and function for the type of atmospheric hazard, including:

  • Mounting of sensors appropriate to the properties of the hazard, such as at lower levels for gases heavier than air
  • Detection of either a condition or the particular contaminant as required.  Example:
    • CO2 sensors for CO2, rather than oxygen sensors.  As the occupational exposure standard for CO2 can be exceeded before the oxygen level has changed markedly
    • Oxygen sensors for large quantities of nitrogen
  • The detection systems must have procedures in place for:
    • The response to an alarm
    • Emergency contacts
  • The Estate Directorate must be in control of the installation of the system
  • The system will require regulator, inspection, calibration and maintenance
    • Records must be retained by the Estate Directorate
  • Signage clearly stating the hazard must be installed on each entry to the laboratory.

Each laboratory is to have a risk management plan in the form of a risk assessment stored in the

RiskWare system. The following items are to be considered as applicable in the risk assessment:

  • Tasks conducted in the laboratory
  • Substances used within the laboratory
  • Skill set of person/s performing the task (example undergraduate, researcher)
  • Biological hazards
  • Radiation apparatus or sources
  • Scheduled drugs and poisons within the laboratory
  • Cytotoxic drugs
  • Manual handling
  • Electrical hazards
  • Lasers
  • Animals

Each research project is required to have the associated risk from the procedures assessed and treated in accordance with HSE-PRO-011 Work Health and Safety Risk Management Procedure.

All risks assessments must be recorded in JCU’s risk register, RiskWare.

The use of plant and equipment must be addressed in the laboratory risk assessment.

Where the use of a piece of plant or equipment is considered to have an inherent level of risk, a Safe Operating Procedure and risk assessment must also be developed.

Experiments which will be left running overnight must have an “unattended experiment card” filled in specifying contact details of researcher, hazards and steps to be taken in an emergency.  The experiment must be appropriately secured/isolated for the time period