Lab Standard

What is the Lab Standard?

OSHA's standard for Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories, often called the "Lab Standard" for short, is a set of requirements for people who work in laboratories. It was developed because the HazCom standard would be impractical to implement in workplaces like academic and research laboratories, where very small amounts of many different types of chemicals are used.

The Lab Standard requires us to provide employee training, access to information about chemical products used in the workplace, access to personal protective equipment (PPE), maintain a written Chemical Hygiene Plan, and appoint a Chemical Hygiene Officer. Each of these is discussed in a bit more detail below.

Employee Training

Job-specific training must be provided by the employee's supervisor, with assistance from the Safety & WC Office as needed. Training must be provided before you work where exposure to hazardous chemicals could occur. Annual refreshers are not required, but retraining is required any time the hazards change.

Access to Information about Chemicals

App State's policy is that MSDSs on laboratory chemicals will be maintained in the same manner as required by the HazCom program.

MSDSs are a kind of "fact sheet" about chemical products. They contain information about the safe use and handling of the product, including what kind of personal protective equipment to wear when handling the product and what to do in case of overexposure, a spill, or fire. OSHA requires virtually all chemical products except those intended and packaged only for home use to have an MSDS.


Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, is equipment worn by employees to protect themselves from chemical or other hazards. Because the Lab Standard requires appropriate local exhaust ventilation (usually in the form of chemical fume hoods), respiratory protection is not usually needed in our laboratories. Most common PPE for labs include include indirect-vented safety goggles, impervious gloves, lab coats, and sometimes impervious aprons.

North Carolina is unusual in that it requires state employers to pay even for PPE that is not highly unusual or unique to the job (for example, safety glasses, which can be worn to and from work as well). To see the North Carolina Office of State Personnel policies on PPE, click here.

By law, employers must first try to find a way to actually remove the hazard before deciding to use PPE. For example, substitution with a less-hazardous chemical or adding extra ventilation must be tried before deciding that an employee should wear a respirator on a regular basis. The Industrial Hygienist can assist in deciding when PPE is appropriate and if so, selecting the proper kind and training employees on its use. For example, the wrong kind of gloves can appear fine but actually allow chemicals to pass through; this gives people a false sense of security that actually increases their chances of being overexposed to the chemical.

Written Chemical Hygiene Plan

App State's written Chemical Hygiene Plan is published the App State Resource Manual. This plan includes details on who is responsible for what with regards to chemical safety in laboratories.

Chemical Hygiene Officer (CHO)

The CHO is responsible for ensuring the Lab Standard's requirements are addressed at the university. Enforcement of requirements lies with the people supervising the labs and their departmental chairpersons. The university's CHO is the University Industrial Hygienist. Each department with laboratories subject to the standard has a Chemical Hygiene Coordinator who is usually the Laboratory Manager. The Chemical Hygiene Coordinator helps implement requirements of the Lab Standard for their department.

Does the Laboratory Standard Apply to Me?

For purposes of the OSHA Lab Standard, a laboratory is a workplace where relatively small quantities (e.g. flasks, test tubes, etc manageable by one person) of hazardous chemicals are used in a manner that neither is involved in nor simulates a production process.

For example, the laboratory in our water treatment plant is used for quality control of a product (finished, potable water), so HazCom applies there instead of the Lab Standard. In contrast, the same chemical tests might be used in an academic laboratory as part of a research project, but this activity would be covered by the Lab Standard instead of HazCom.

So if you are an employee who works in a university-owned or operated laboratory that meets this definition, then the Lab Standard does apply to you.

Students are not covered by OSHA, so technically the Lab Standard does not apply to them. However, if an accident were to occur in an academic lab, the OSHA Lab Standard would be viewed as a minimum "best practices" that should have been followed by both faculty and students. Thus if a student were to be injured and the supervising faculty had failed to require students to follow the the Lab Standard, the liability of faculty and the University could be significant.

How Can I Find Out More?

The App State MSDS Checklist can help you stay in compliance with App State policies and Lab Standard requirements related to MSDSs.

For detailed, App State-specific information on how to get and maintain MSDSs, see the MSDS FAQ Sheet.

You can download a copy of the OSHA Lab Standard and find much more information about the standard from the OSHA website.

You can view the N.C. Office of State Personnel workplace requirements here. 

If you have questions that were not answered above, please feel free to contact the university's Chemical Hygiene Officer.

(Updated: May 25, 2021)

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