Visit our other safety programs for specific hazards involved in your research.
General lab safety
Environmental Health and Safety provides programs and services for work conducted in research labs on campus. These programs are designed to comply with all relevant regulatory frameworks.
Whole room decommissioning, lab hazard clearance and decommissioning of laboratory equipment
Activities involving whole room decommissioning, lab hazard clearance or decommissioning of lab equipment may only be undertaken by technically qualified persons.
Under no circumstances may administrative staff be tasked with these duties.
The signatory on the forms must be someone with technical knowledge and a significant level of responsibility in the lab.
Please scan and email forms to email@example.com
Personal Protective Equipment
The Respiratory Protection Program is designed to meet the requirements of the CSA Standard z94.4-18-Selection, Use and Care of Respirators. This process consists of assessing the respiratory protective needs of staff and students; and providing training in the proper use, care and maintenance of the respirator selected and fit tested.
The main purpose of the respirator is to prevent the user from inhaling harmful particles or fumes from hazardous chemicals or products in the workplace.
Supervisors should conduct a Hazard assessment (PDF) with the help of a worker to determine workplace conditions, hazardous materials used and potential exposure.
Before requesting respirator fit testing
Workers required to wear a respirator for assigned duties must fill out a Respirator User Screening Form (PDF) and submit it for approval by a Health Care Specialist. The screening form will provide information regarding the conditions in which the respirator will be used and vital information which may reveal medical conditions or user accountability.
Please send completed forms to:
Environmental Health and Safety, 191 Extended Education Complex – Attention:
Occupational Health Coordinator – Respirator Screening
If you have any questions about the screening form, please contact Occupational Health and Safety at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 204-474-6438
Environmental Health and Safety will schedule a fit test appointment once the Respirator User Screening form has been reviewed and approved. Please review Respirator Fit Testing Information prior to your fit test appointment to ensure you are prepared.
Respirator fit testing
Respirator fit testing should occur once every two years due to:
- Changes in facial or dental features
- Weight gain or loss
- User discomfort
- Changes in working conditions that may affect respirator usage
One the day of the fit testing appointment, individuals should:
- Be clean shaven (if applicable)
- Refrain from smoking at least 30-minutes prior to the appointment
- Refrain from chewing gum during the appointment
There are two types of fit tests recognized in the CSA Standard z94.4-11-Selection, Use and Care of Respirators:
- Quantitative fit testing
- Qualitative fit testing
Quantitative fit testing
During quantitative fit testing, the user will wear a respirator connected to a computer program through tubing. The program will take two readings during the fit test: one from inside the user’s respirator face piece and the other from the ambient air. These readings will be measured against each other to determine if the respirator is the right fit. While wearing the respirator, the user will perform several exercises to mimic working conditions to determine if the fit and size of the mask is appropriate.
A particulate generator may be used to create an ambient concentration of particulates. The user will wear a respirator fitted with a P100 High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) cartridge.
During each exercise, the operator will monitor for particulate breakthrough on a computer program. If there is a substantial breakthrough, the respirator will be examined to see if it is the proper fit. If there is a problem with the fit, another size may be selected.
In order to pass each of the exercises, the fit factor must be greater than the pre-determined pass level. For half-face air purifying respirators, the fit factor/pass level is set at 100.
Once fit testing is complete, test results and a report indicating the type of respirator fitted will be printed out and provided to the user. The user will forward the fit test report to their supervisor or manager to be kept as a training record. A copy of the fit test report will also be kept with Environmental Health and Safety.
Qualitative fit testing
Since quantitative fit testing cannot be conducted in the field, qualitative fit testing will have to be self-administered to ensure the respirator is properly worn.
Prior to wearing the respirator, the user will be exposed to a distinct scent. The user will then put on the respirator (fitted with the appropriate cartridges designed to filter the scent) and perform physical movement exercises. During these exercises, the user is asked whether they can detect the scent. If the user does not detect the scent, the respirator is considered appropriate and the fit test is passed. If the user detects the scent, adjustments may be made or another size selected.
Prior to commencing the desired fit test, the individual will have to perform both negative and positive pressure tests. Performing both of these tests will determine if the respirator has a proper seal.
Negative pressure test:
The individual will place the palms of their hands over the respirator inlet openings or cartridge. A proper seal will indicate when the individual inhales and a slight collapse of the face piece occurs.
Positive pressure test:
The individual will place the palm of their hand over the exhalation outlet and then exhale. If the respirator has a proper seal, the forced air is unable to escape from the bottom or sides of the face piece.
Passing both tests indicates the respirator is worn correctly and the individual can wear the respirator for the fit test.
Respirator storage and maintenance
Half-face respirators should be stored in a sealed contained away from any source or contamination. Filters should be taped and covered when not in use.
Respirators should be cleaned after each use with non-alcohol wipes. If wipes aren’t available, soap and water can also be used.
Lab coats are worn to protect your clothes and skin from contamination by pathogens and hazardous products when conducting controlled activities and while working with
hazardous products. They must be removed when leaving a containment zone/lab area.
Lab coats should have:
- quick release fastenings
- close-fitting cuffs
- be made of flame retardant material
The University of Manitoba has a list of preferred suppliers that depts. can use for laundering services.
- Canadian Linen & Uniform Services – (Vendor #007642220)
- Phone: 204-480-5561 / www.canadianlinen.ca
- Dollarwise Quality Cleaners – (Vendor #007735292)
- Phone: 204-452-8166 / www.drycleangreen.ca
- Perth’s – (Vendor #007728511)
- Phone: 204-697-6100 / www.perths.ca
- Quintex Services Ltd. – (Vendor #007706789)
- Phone: 204-477-6600 www.quintexservices.com
Please contact the above suppliers for a quote. This will need to be uploaded into EPIC. For further questions/assistance contact email@example.com
Not all gloves are created equally, which is why it is important to select the proper glove based on the chemical you are handling. Below are links to useful resources to assist chemical users in identifying the proper glove for the task at hand.
All recommendations made are specific to a given manufacturer. Please ensure you identify which manufacturer produced the glove you intend on using.
Fume hoods are intended to control ones exposure to chemical hazards, and should be used for all chemical processes. When used properly, chemicals vapours and gases are contained in the fumehood and vented outside of the occupied space. They can also be used to protect users from chemical splashes and spills.
Fume hoods should not be used for the storage of chemical materials, glassware, and other instruments to ensure optimal air flow.
Please refer to the Fume Hood User Standards and Guidelines on how to properly operate your fume hood.
If you require your fumehood to be serviced, please see the Fumehood Repair and Servicing Form.
Emergency showers/eyewash stations
The first 10 to 15 seconds after exposure to a hazardous substance are critical. Delaying treatment, even for a few seconds, may cause serious injury. Emergency Shower/Eyewash stations should be no more than 10 seconds away or 15-30 meters (50 to 100 feet) on an unobstructed path.
Flush for at least 15 minutes! Water does not neutralize the contaminant; it only dilutes and washes away. If irritation persists, repeat flushing.
The eyewash station should deliver fluid to both eyes simultaneously and the volume should not be at a velocity, which may injure the eyes. The user should be able to keep their eyes open and the eyewash remains operational without a hand on the lever. You may find though that you have to hold your eyelids open with your fingers to allow proper flushing. The wearing of contact lenses can be dangerous because chemicals can become trapped under a lens (how much time does it take to remove a contact lens?) Seek medical attention immediately.
The shower should deliver a pattern of water that will come into contact with the entire body. The shower should remain operational without the user’s hand on the lever. Equipment and clothing should be removed under the shower once it has been activated. If necessary, a fellow employee may help remove contaminated clothing. Modesty has no place in emergency situations! However, a fellow employee may also assist by using an article as a shield to provide privacy. Safety showers should not however be used to flush eyes due to the high pressure of the water flow. Seek medical attention.
Maintenance and Testing
Caretaking staff are instructed to inspect and flush eyewashes in public areas weekly. Eyewash stations situated in a lab are to be inspected and flushed by lab personnel weekly. To inspect your eyewash station, run for at least three minutes. Please see eyewash station checklist on next page. Physical Plant inspects all Emergency showers annually. NOTE: Non-plumbed self-contained eyewash stations that are serviced by an external contractor do not require weekly testing. Contact Physical Plant 204-474-6281 immediately if these need maintenance or flushing solution refill.
Explosion-proof and laboratory-safe (Flammable Material Storage) refrigerator/freezers
Normally flammable materials in the laboratories do not require refrigeration. In situations when flammable materials must be refrigerated, they should be stored in either (a) Explosion-Proof or (b) Laboratory-Safe (Flammable Material Storage) Refrigerators/Freezers.
The explosion-proof unit is designed to be operated in a hazardous atmosphere and all sources of ignition, both internal and external, are eliminated. The compressor, relays, thermostat and other electrical connections and devices are sealed; the power is supplied to the unit in a sealed metal conduit that is gas tight, and the power connection is hard-wired and sealed. These units are designed for use in rooms where the atmosphere could have a build-up of explosive gases/vapours. This degree of protection is not necessary for most academic laboratories.
The Laboratory- Safe (Flammable Material Storage) refrigerator differs from the Explosion-Proof type in that it does not have necessary modifications to operate in a potentially explosive atmosphere but all ignition sources (e.g., light, door switch, thermostat etc.) have been removed from the chamber. Like the Explosion-Proof type, these units have a magnetic door catch instead of a mechanical latch to eliminate a source of spark. These units are connected to a power source in the normal way and have the compressor and its circuits and controls at the top of the unit. This type of unit is considerably cheaper than the Explosion-Proof type.
Biological safety cabinets (BSCs)
Refer to the biosafety program's webpage and manual for more information on biological safety cabinets
Radiation safety devices
For information on radiation devices, dosimetry, survey meters/contamination monitoring or X-ray/laser devices, refer to the radiation safety program for more information.
Spill and first aid kits
Basic Spill Kit Contents
- A labelled 5‐gallon pail with a lid – use this to store materials and to act as a waste pail in the event of a spill.
- The laboratory’s Spill Clean‐up Procedures, a list of Emergency Contact Numbers and the U of M Post Exposure Chart stored in a plastic sleeve.
- Universal absorbent pads and paper towels; a mop and bucket are also an additional option.
- Disposable nitrile gloves (at least two pairs per person) and one pair reusable chemically resistant gloves.
- A full face shield –or‐ non‐vented splash goggles and face masks.
- Back closing gown to wear over the lab coat and possibly disposable arm‐covers and shoe covers.
- Dustpan, brush and/or squeegee that can be decontaminated or autoclaved prior to disposal
- Autoclave bags in a variety of sizes.
- Autoclavable sharps container
Labels, forms and other resources
Depending on the hazards in use, specific training will need to be completed.
Labs on campus are required to meeting regulatory standards. The Summary of Needs for Labs checklist (PDF) must be completed by designers and submitted to EHS. This checklist assists in determining the physical needs for the space and subsequently, the regulatory requirements for to implement those needs. The accompanying User Guide (PDF) can be used to assist in completing the checklist. The User Guide also provides information about default design requirements for laboratories that requisitioners may not be aware of but that can impact renovation costs, eg. seamless flooring is a default requirement in laboratory design.
Construction or renovation of other spaces using or storing hazardous materials (e.g., workshops or studios) will still require submission of the existing requisitioner's declaration
Designers are strongly encouraged to review the Designer's Checklist (PDF) during the design process for a laboratory rather than completing the form and submitting it at the end of the process. The intent is that variances can be discussed with the university at the time that the designer becomes aware of the need for a variance. The accepted solution can then be incorporated into designs rather than requesting a variance after a design is complete.
Designers should contact the Physical Plant project coordinator associated with a project with questions concerning variances.
Any renovation or change to a laboratory will not necessarily involve all the requirements of regulatory requirements. The intention is not to prevent small improvements by requiring a complete upgrade of a laboratory with any renovation.
For example, a researcher that has funds to replace laboratory countertops will not be expected to upgrade all other aspects of the laboratory at the same time (e.g., install seamless flooring). The expectation is the new countertops will comply with the regulatory requirements for countertops. In these instances, the degree of regulatory application will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Review the section on lab and equipment decommissioning.