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Lab Safety

Lab Safety

Principle investigators are responsible for enforcing safety training, documentation, reporting and best practice in their research groups. PIs must familiarize themselves with the Environmental Health and Safety policies and relevant resources. All advisees, including graduate students, undergraduate students and visitors must work with their advisors to establish sufficient training records prior to engaging in research.

Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) at Oregon State University

    Safety guidance for students

    Lab safety information for students

    The most commonly required safety trainings for the department of physics are summarized below. All OSU personnel should access their training records and complete the required trainings (set by the principle investigators) through EH&S. The list below may not reflect additional trainings specified by individual research groups.

    Re-training frequency: Annually

    Required by: All Experimental Labs

    Re-training frequency: Every three years

    Required by: All Experimental Labs

    Re-training frequency: Every three years

    Required by: All Experimental Labs

    Re-training frequency: One-time training

    Required by: Operators of Class 3B and Class 4 lasers

    Re-training frequency: Annually

    Required by: Operators of biological samples

    Safety guidance for PIs

    PIs of experimental physics research groups need to update the following annually

    • Check and revise chemical inventory (which is to be kept on file in the lab and also uploaded to EH&S).
    • Register lab personnel (including postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate students) with EH&S. Lab personnel can be registered on the PI web interface.
    • Update your Lab-Specific Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and have it available in the lab, either on file or electronically.
    • Remind students to complete ALL safety training and fill out safety training log (see information for students for specific training requirements). The PI should also establish their lab-specific additional training which also need be documented. Each lab member needs to fill out a form acknowledging their training, which the PI must keep on file. The PIs are encouraged to check the completion of all required training modules by their personnel using the PI web interface via the EH&S website.
    • Ensure hazardous waste is stored and labeled properly in lab.
    • Complete lab self-assessment form and keep it on file. The lab self-assessment form should be updated and reviewed on at least a yearly basis.
    • Complete the acknowledgement of laboratory safety requirements form (prompted by the EH&S via email), in which the PI certifies online that the personnel training, chemical inventory, and other requirements are fulfilled and everything is current. Once completed, the PI will receive a communication from the EH&S acknowledging the submission, which should be kept on file.
    • Fix any problems found by EH&S inspection within 30 days and submit the report on complying with the EH&S requirements to the EH&S via the PI web interface.
    • Submit for the departmental record:
      • Filled out lab self-assessment form
      • A copy of the email acknowledging the submission of the lab safety requirements form (see point #7 above) by the EH&S with the date.
      • If available, the EH&S inspection report for the current year, with comments on when and how the identified issues were corrected

    First-time users

    If you are a first-time user of the PI web interface with the EH&S, you need to set up an account by contacting EH&S at (541) 737-2273 or


    Register labs, personnel, and chemical inventory with EH&S. Labs include any space where hazardous materials or hazardous equipment are stored and/or used even those with no chemicals.

    Machine shop safety

    The Department of Physics operates a user-based machine shop. Because there are no mechanics stationed, only trained personnel are allowed to perform work in the machine shop.

    • Safety glasses are required when any equipment is being used even if you are not the operator.
    • No long hair or loose clothing. Hair must be pulled back and tied up.
    • No wearing of jewelry or watches while working on any equipment.
    • Closed-toe shoes or boots only; no sandals, flipflops or barefeet when equipment is being used.
    • Remember that ultimately: You are responsible for your own safety.

    Visitors in the machine shop

    • Visitors are welcome in the shop under certain conditions.
    • Safety glasses are supplied near the doors and must be worn if any equipment is being used (or will be used).
    • Unsupervised and/or unauthorized visitors are not allowed to touch or use any tools or equipment.
    • Visitors are not to interrupt or interfere with any person actively working in the shop.
    • Observing is OK, but only with permission and while wearing appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment).

    Getting started

    If you need to do work in the machine shop, you must have passed an appropriate machine shop course, either offered by the physics or engineering departments or an equivalent from other institutions. You must have a certificate of authorization on file in the physics office (Weniger 301.)

    Shop record keeping

    • All forms and logs are kept in the physics office (Weniger 301).

    Shop hours

    • The shop is generally considered to be available at any time for approved students and faculty.
    • However, the machine shop should not be used at times when there are no other people in the building that can call for help or render aid if needed.
    • The machine shop door should be left open at any time the shop is in use.
    • The machine shop should be closed and locked up when unattended.
    • Grad student’s PI must have given approval for grad student use of shop.
    • Grad student’s PI is responsible for the safety of his/her grad student(s) when using the shop.

    Closed hours

    The shop is generally considered to be closed if there is no one available that could know you are working in the shop.

    • Safety glasses or appropriate goggles / face shields are required in the shop if any equipment is being used.
    • Shoes must be worn in any shop area. No one wearing sandals or flipflops should be in the shop area.
    • Do not operate any item of equipment unless you are familiar with its operation and have been authorized to operate it.
    • Avoid excessive use of compressed air to blow dirt or chips from machinery to avoid scattering chips. Never use compressed air guns to clean clothing, hair, or aim compressed air at another person.
    • In case of injury, notify the physics office. Give as much detail as you can.
    • Machines must be shut off when cleaning, repairing, or oiling.
    • Do not wear ties, loose clothing, loose long sleeves, jewelry, gloves, etc. around moving or rotating machinery.
    • Long hair must be tied back or covered to keep it away from moving machinery.
    • Appropriate hand protection should be used for handling hot objects, glass or sharp-edged items.
    • Wear appropriate clothing for the job (i.e. do not wear short sleeve shirts or short pants when welding).
    • Do not work in the shop if tired or in a hurry.
    • No horseplay in the shop areas will be tolerated.
    • All machines must be operated with all required guards and shields in place when possible.
    • Never use your hands to remove chips or shaving from the work area. A brush or gentle air blasts should be used for removing chips, shavings, etc. from the work area.
    • Keep all body parts clear of the point of operation of machines by using special tools or devices, such as push sticks, hooks, pliers, etc.
    • Never use a rag near moving machinery.
    • A hard hammer should not be used to strike a hardened tool or any machine part. Use a soft faced hammer.
    • Practice cleanliness and orderliness in the shop areas. Never leave a dirty piece of equipment.
    • Keep the floor around machines clean, dry and free from trip hazards. Do not allow chips to accumulate.
    • Think through the entire job before starting.
    • Before starting a machine, always check it for correct setup and always check to see if machine is clear by operating it manually, if possible.
    • Generally, food is not allowed in the machine shop.
    • Don't rush or take chances. Don’t say you know how to do something, when you don’t. Obey all safety rules at ALL times.
    • If you have not worked with a particular material before, check the hazardous materials data sheets book for any specific precautions to be taken while working with the material.
    • Heavy sanding and painting should only be done in well ventilated areas, such as a fume hood or outside.
    • Follow all appropriate precautions when working with solvents, paints, adhesives or other chemicals. Use appropriate personal protective equipment.
    • Check the power cords and plugs on portable tools for before using them.
    • Always store oily rags in an approved metal container.
    • Obey all posted signs, warnings, posters and special instructions.

    Serious injuries that threaten life or limb

    • Call 911.
    • Request an ambulance, give location (OSU, Weniger Hall, east parking lot, fourth floor, room 404)
    • Describe the nature of the problem and stay on the phone.
    • If you are alone with the victim, watch for emergency personnel and guide them to the victim. Otherwise, send someone.

    Emergencies which might need professional care

    If you are unsure of the severity of an injury (broken vs. sprained, etc…)

    • If transportation is available, take victim to nearest hospital or care center.
      • Student Health Center – Located across the street from Weniger Hall
        • (M-F 9-6, Sat 10-3, Sun closed; 541-737-2724 (urgent advice))
      • Good Samaritan Emergency Room – 541-768-5111
    • If transportation is not available, call 911 and request an ambulance
    • Provide appropriate first aid.
    • Help victim to rest comfortably.
    • Reassure victim and encourage them to seek additional care if necessary.
    • Run drill at correct RPM for diameter of drill bit and material.
    • Always hold work in a vise or clamp to the drill table. NEVER hold it by hand.
    • Use a correctly ground drill bit for the material being drilled.
    • Use the proper cutting fluid for the material being drilled.
    • Remove chips with a brush, never by hand.
    • Ease up on drilling pressure as the drill starts to break through the bottom of the material.
    • Don't use a dull or cracked drill bit. Inspect the drill bit before using.
    • Don't drill with too much pressure.
    • Always try to support part on parallels or a backing board when drilling through any material.
    • Never place taper shank tools such as large diameter drills or tapered shank reamers in a drill chuck. Only straight shank tools such as standard drills can be clamped in chucks or collets.
    • Always clean drill shank and/or drill sleeve, and the spindle hole before mounting.
    • Remove taper shank tools from spindle or sleeve with a drill drift and hammer.
    • Never try to loosen the drill chuck while the power is on.
    • Never clean the machine while it is in motion.
    • If the drill binds in a hole, stop the machine and turn the spindle backwards by hand to release the bit.
    • When drilling a deep hole withdraw the drill bit frequently to clear chips.
    • Always remove the drill chuck key or the drill drift from the spindle immediately after using.
    • Wear safety eye protection while drilling.
    • Let the spindle stop of its own accord after turning the power off. Never try to stop the spindle with your hand.
    • Plexiglas and other brittle plastics can be difficult to drill. Get advice for drill selection and lubricants when drilling these materials.

    Abrasive wheel machinery shall not be operated without the appropriate guards in place.

    • Tool rests on bench or pedestal grinders shall be set no more than 1/8 inch from the wheel.
    • Never use a wheel that has been dropped or received a heavy blow, even though there may be no apparent damage. Such wheels may be weakened or unbalanced enough to fly apart on startup.
    • Stand to one side when starting machine.
    • Do not grind on side of wheel unless wheel is specifically designed for such use.
    • Do not use excessive pressure while grinding. On surface grinder, do not exceed .0005” inch downfeed at any time.
    • Keep the grinding wheel dressed. Dressing a small amount frequently is better than having to dress a lot later and will allow the wheel to cut faster, cooler and with a better surface finish.
    • Hold work securely while grinding, use the toolrest to support the work when off-hand grinding on bench or pedestal grinders.
    • Do not grind aluminum. It will clog the wheel and aluminum dust is explosive.
    • Always wear safety glasses when grinding on bench or pedestal grinders. The addition of a face shield is recommended.
    • If a magnetic chuck is being used, on the surface grinder, make sure it is holding the work securely before starting to grind.
    • The upper guide and guard should be set as close to the work as possible, at least within 1/2 inch.
    • If the band breaks, immediately shut off the power and stand clear until the machine has stopped.
    • Examine blade before installing to see if it is cracked, do not install a cracked blade.
    • Use the proper pitch blade for the thickness of the material to be cut. There should be at least 3-4 teeth in the material when cutting.
    • Do not run the band saw at a higher speed than recommended for the material being cut.
    • If the saw stalls in a cut, turn the power off and reverse the blade by hand to free it.
    • Before using any power tool, inspect it to make sure the cord is not damaged in any way, that the ground pin is intact, and that the blade is sharp and undamaged.
    • Do not use the saw, or any other power tools, in a wet area.
    • Do not run the extension cord across walkways where people might trip over it or where the cord may be run over and damaged.
    • Keep your head out of the path of particles thrown out by the blade. Wear eye protection.
    • Disconnect the power cord before cleaning, changing blades, or making any adjustments to the saw.
    • When it is necessary to raise the guard for certain types of cuts, use the guard lever.
    • Never wedge, wire, or otherwise jam the guard to prevent it from working. This is a very dangerous practice.
    • Wait until the saw stops before lifting it from a cut.
    • Before setting the saw down, make sure the guard is closed, as the blade may still be turning.
    • Don't carry the saw with your fingers on the switch trigger.
    • Don't pull the saw backwards in a cut if you can avoid it.
    • Use the proper blade for the type of cut to be made.
    • Do not use the cord to move or drag the saw.
    • Do not use the power hand saw for cuts if you cannot keep a firm and secure grip on the saw and the material being cut. A hand saw is still the best for some kinds of work and often faster.
    • Do not operate sanders without the guards in place.
    • On the disc sander always use the downward motion side of the disc to sand. Never the upward motion side as this can throw your part upwards with tremendous force.
    • Always attempt to place your work against the rest on the disc and belt sanders.
    • On the horizontal belt sander, always sand so that the belt motion is away from you.
    • Do not operate machines with torn or ripped belts or disks.
    • Do not sand any material that will give off a dangerous dust. Such materials as beryllium or copper beryllium alloys must not be sanded or filed. Asbestos must not be sanded.
    • Sweep / vacuum all particles when you are done sanding.
    • Sand in a well ventilated area; away from other machines (preferably outside).
    • Use a vacuum or a dust collector to collect dust while sanding to prevent the dispersal over a large area.
    • A dust mask must be worn.
    • Safety glasses must be worn.
    • The entire area must be cleaned when you are done for the day.
    • Avoid skin contact. Wear latex or nitrile gloves. Check for chemical to glove compatibility first.
    • Work in a well ventilated area.
    • Avoid using solvents around hot metal surfaces and flames.
    • Do not smoke or light flames in areas where solvents are used and stored.
    • Clean up any spills immediately.
    • Do not work with solvents in confined, unventilated areas.
    • Do not drink alcoholic beverages or take medications containing alcohol before or during working with solvents. Alcohol in the bloodstream sometimes causes synergistic reactions with various solvents that can lead to loss of consciousness, and even possibly, death.
    • Report any ill effects and skin disorders due to chemicals or solvents to appropriate medical personnel.
    • Develop and maintain good personal hygiene habits. Remove protective equipment and wash thoroughly after contact with solvents.
    • Fumes from paints, solvents, adhesives, etc can drift throughout the building in ways not necessarily anticipated.
    • Mix resins in small batches and in correct containers.
    • Stand to one side of the work being fed through the saw. Never stand directly in line of the work.
    • Use the proper blade for the material and the type of cut. Do not use a rip blade for cross cutting or a crosscut blade for rip sawing and do not use a plywood blade for anything but plywood.
    • Inspect the blade before using it. Make sure it is the proper blade and make sure the blade is sharp and free from cracks or defects.
    • Never allow your fingers to get near the blade when sawing. Use a pusher stick to rip narrow pieces of stock. Do not use a pusher stick to remove scrap. For scrap removal, shut off the saw, wait until the blade comes to a complete stop, and then remove the scraps.
    • Appropriate guards must be in place at all times.
    • If the piece of material that you are cutting is too large for one person to handle safely, get someone to assist you in “tailing-off” the excess material. Never try to do it alone. “Tailing-off” refers to supporting a large workpiece by supporting it underneath with your hands. Do not grasp it, just support the vertical load.
    • If you are “tailing-off” for someone else let them guide the work through the saw. You should just support the work without influencing the cut.
    • Never reach over the saw to obtain something from the other side.
    • When shutting off the power, never attempt to stop the saw by shoving an object, piece of work, or anything else against the blade. Make sure the saw has stopped completely before leaving work area.
    • Never make any adjustments or measurements while the saw is in motion. Always turn off the power and make sure that the saw has made a complete stop before making any necessary adjustments or measurements.
    • Do not allow material to collect on or around the table saw. Sweep up all sawdust and material scraps regularly while working to minimize chances of slipping or stumbling.
    • Make sure that work area is cleaned up thoroughly. Unclean work areas can cause accidents.
    • The blade of the circular saw should always be set to 1/8 of an inch above the workpiece to prevent kickback.
    • You must be thoroughly familiar with the milling machine you wish to operate. The mill’s operating manual must have been read and understood.
    • Work must be clamped securely in a vise and vise clamped tightly to the table, or, work must be clamped securely to the table.
    • Make sure cutter is rotating in the proper direction before cutting material.
    • Before running machine the spindle should be rotated by hand to make sure it is clear for cutting.
    • Make sure the power is off before changing cutters.
    • Always use the proper cutting fluid for the material being cut.
    • Never run the machine faster than the correct cutting speed.
    • Make sure that the machine is fully stopped before taking any measurements.
    • Always use cutters which are sharp and in good condition.
    • Don't place anything on the milling machine table such as wrenches, hammers, or tools.
    • Always stay at the machine while it is running.
    • Don't take too heavy a cut or use too rapid a feed.
    • Remove the collet tightening wrench immediately after using it.
    • If at all feasible, add a shield to prevent chips from hitting other people.
    • Use the milling machine spindle brake to stop the spindle after the power has been turned off.
    • Before cleaning the mill remove cutting tools from the spindle to avoid cutting yourself.
    • You must be thoroughly familiar with the lathe you wish to operate. The lathe’s operating manual must have been read and understood.
    • Make sure that the chuck or faceplate is securely tightened onto the lathe spindle.
    • When removing the chuck or faceplate do not use machine power.
    • When installing the chuck or faceplate do not use machine power.
    • Move the tool bit a safe distance from the collet or chuck when inserting or removing work.
    • Don't run the machine faster than the proper cutting speed.
    • Always clamp the toolbit as short as possible in the toolholder to prevent it from breaking or chattering.
    • Always make sure that the toolbit is sharp and has the proper clearance.
    • Do not file on the lathe, unless you have an appropriate amount of experience.
    • If work is turned between centers, make sure that proper adjustment is made between centers and that the tailstock is locked in place.
    • If work is being turned between centers and expands due to heat generated from cutting, readjust centers to avoid excessive friction.
    • Do not grasp or touch chips or turnings with your fingers, but get rid of them using a blunt instrument. It is safer to turn off the lathe before clearing chips then to leave it running.
    • Set the toolbit on center line of work to prevent work from climbing over tool or cutting above center and dragging.
    • Remove chuck key from chuck immediately after using.
    • Turn chuck or faceplate through by hand before turning on the power to be sure there is no binding or clearance problems.
    • Stop the machine before taking measurements.
    • Before cleaning the lathe, remove tools from the tool post and tailstock.
    • Welders, assistants, and anyone else in the welding area shall wear glasses or shields of recommended shades during welding operations.
    • Inspect all welding equipment to be used, prior to each use, for possible damage.
    • Avoid handling oxygen bottles with greasy hands, gloves or rags.
    • Always strap tanks to a welding cart or a fixed object. Never allow a gas cylinder to be free standing. Replace the safety cap on all cylinders when not in use.
    • When doing any kind of TIG/ARC/MIG welding, make sure work and/or work table is properly grounded.
    • Do not weld in or near a wet area or with wet gloves/hands.
    • Be alert to possible fire hazards. Move the object to be welded to a safe location, or, remove all flammable materials from the work area.
    • Never weld in the same area where degreasing or other cleaning operations are performed.
    • Keep suitable fire extinguishing equipment nearby and know how to operate it.
    • Shut off the cylinder valves when the job is completed, release pressure from the regulators by opening the torch valves momentarily and back out regulator adjusting valves. Never leave the torch unattended with pressure in the hoses.
    • Utilize all protective equipment and clothing. Do not weld with any part of the body uncovered, the arc light will cause burns similar to severe sunburn.
    • Never weld inside drums or enclosed spaces without adequate ventilation, or, the use of airline respirators or self-contained breathing apparatus.
    • Check the ventilation system before starting to weld and periodically thereafter to insure adequate performance. Welding fumes should not be allowed to get into the rest of the shop working areas.
    • Never cut or weld any container that has held explosive or flammable materials.
    • Abide by any other safety measures required for each particular type of welding.
    • Allow for proper ventilation when brazing or soldering. The fluxes are acidic and toxic.
    • Do not weld on painted, galvanized or greasy, oily metals. Not only can the fumes be toxic, but the welds will not be satisfactory and will fail in use.