UCL Department of Chemical Engineering


Safety in Laboratories

This section covers lab safety and contains condensed policy from the safety handbook.

Lab Etiquette

It is important to be respectful to other people and their labs. Listed below are a few things to bear in mind whilst working in Chemical Engineering:

  • Do not treat others' labs as your own - i.e. do not wander around uninvited, ask before you borrow anything & return anything you have borrowed
  • Before loaning anything to others - label your equipment with a lab number
  • Help new starters or anyone that seems like they are in need
  • Inform your lab users of any high risk procedure you will be working on (communicate and/or put up signs in your work area)
  • Be aware of what is happening around you - your work may not pose significant risks but someone working next to you may be performing a high risk experiment.
Risk Assessment Procedure

All laboratory work requires an approved risk assessment before work commences. These must be uploaded to riskNET and approved by the PI or, for novel experiments, peer reviewed.

Some general guidance:

  • Consider all who may be affected, including cleaning staff and visitors. 
  • The level of detail must be proportional to the risk associated with the work activity.
  • The assessments must be communicated to those carrying out or affected by the work. This may be done in RiskNET using the distribution list feature, through group meetings, or other methods. 
  • Risk assessments must be stored in the lab. 
Out of Hours Working

Normal working hours in the department are:

  • 8:00 am to 7:00 pm - Monday to Friday.

Extended working hours are:

  • 7:00 am to 8:00 am and 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm - Monday to Friday
  • 9:00 am to 7:00pm - Saturday, Sunday, and bank holidays. 

A form for Laboratory Working Out of Hours Permission is given here:

Out of Hours Form

Work in laboratories during extended working hours is only allowed with:

  • the permission of the supervisor, who will pass on the form to the Head of Department for final approval,
  • a second named person in attendance throughout the work,
  • a full risk assessment of the proposed experiment, which covers the additional risks of working out of hours, which is approved by the supervisor on riskNET, making clear the expected hours of work and duration of the experiment (e.g. 2 weeks).
  • for urgent (e.g. overrunning experiments) work, please call the supervisor in charge of the work for permission. They will then confirm this work with the Head of Department.

New PhD students should be closely supervised when they first start lab work until their academic supervisor judges they are competent to work unaided.

For situations where an experiment is left running unattended either Monday - Friday, or continuously over the week, please complete and fix the below form to the equipment left running. Permits can only be valid for one month.

If it is necessary for commercial equipment designed to run continuously to be left on then please contact the DSO and a permanent continuous running permit can be issued.  Equipment to be left on over UCL closures still required additional written permission.  

Masters Students

MSc and MEng students are not permitted to perform lone working. MSc students must be closely supervised by a competent, experienced, research student while carrying out new or hazardous tasks, but may work without direct supervision on routine non-hazardous tasks if they have completed the mandatory safety training and there is an experienced PhD student nearby who is familiar with the work. MSc students must not work in labs outside of normal working hours. See for details:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Two lab coats and one pair of safety glasses will be provided for each new researcher by the research group. 

Dirty lab coats may be left in the yellow bin next to LB21 for washing, after writing your name in the lab coat and signing the book. An email will then inform you as to when these can be picked up. They will be on the racking outside LB21.

Prescription safety glasses can be provided by the department for all the staff and PhD researchers if the requirement for these is justified as part of the project risk assessment by the researcher. Anyone interested needs to email chemeng.safety@ucl.ac.uk answering the following questions:

  1. How many hours per week do you spend in the lab?
  2. Do you always wear prescription glasses (i.e. not eye contacts)?
  3. Why are the over-specs not suitable?
Chemical Storage

Chemicals must be stored safely in the lab. Chemical storage includes storing flammable liquids in metal or fire rated cupboards, not keeping chemicals and lab equipment in the same cupboards and putting appropriate hazard signs on store cupboards. Incompatible substances (such as acids and bases) must not be stored in the same cupboard. Please see the documents below for some guidance on which compounds are considered incompatible.

PDF iconChemical Storage Guidance.pdf

PDF iconDo's and Don'ts of Chemical Storage.pdf 

If at any time you are unsure about the chemical storage for any material, please contact either your Area Safety Rep or the DSO/DDSO (chemeng.safety@ucl.ac.uk).  

Waste Procedures

The key practices to follow in any laboratory are:
        •    Do not dispose of anything sharp in general waste bins.
        •    Only put clean glass in broken glass bins.
        •    Do not put anything contaminated with chemicals in general waste bins.
        •    Never pour water immiscible liquids (e.g. oil) down the drain.

For procedures on waste disposal, click on the PDF below: 

If at any time you are unsure about the disposal procedures for any material, please contact either your Area Safety Rep or the DSO/DDSO (chemeng.safety@ucl.ac.uk).

Spill Procedure

The spill procedures for the department are detailed below. This can be used in the event of a major or minor spill and should be followed for best practice. In emergencies or if the lab user is unsure of what to do, always contact the safety team