Biological Safety


There has long been an awareness of bacterial and viral hazards to the human body. Some of these can be highly contagious and deadly. Another concern, more recent, has been the recombinant DNA research which had caused fears that modified DNA could create new hazards. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) established guidelines governing the experimentation with recombinant DNA in 1986. State and local governments in many cases have adopted these guidelines, with or without modifications, as law. In the case of our department , the City of Boston requires modified compliance under the NIH guidelines.

Informational Resources

The Boston College Biological Safety Manual is available for review on the web-site of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety at this link.

The Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plan is available for review on the web-site of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety at this link.

Chemical Hygiene


The federal agency known as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) was established in 1971. Its mission is protecting the safety of employees in the United States as they perform their jobs in various enterprises and industries. As part of that mission, the Hazard Communication Standard of 1987 addressed the rights of employees to be informed of the chemical hazards in their work-places and the obligation of industry management to help employees properly avoid over-exposure to the chemical hazards. (This act was preceded by many state-level "Right-To-Know" laws that intended to accomplish the same thing). This regulation was the result of growing evidence of the serious health hazards of long-term exposure to certain chemicals, such as asbestos and formaldehyde. These laws were also stimulated by chemical industry accidents, notably the substantial release of methyl isocyanate by the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India in 1984, which resulted in many deaths.

Temporarily, chemical laboratories were exempted from the Hazard Communication Standard, since a typical chemical laboratory was a place where a large variety of chemicals were present in relatively small quantities and which was staffed by scientists and technicians with substantial education in the properties of chemicals. Eventually, an appendix was added to the Hazard Communication Standard which is commonly known as the "Lab Standard". The key part of this standard is the "Chemical Hygiene Plan" which is the document by which the respective organization (in our case, Boston College) defines, within a mandated framework, how its science labs will operate so as to safeguard the health and well-being of the lab employees. By definition, anyone who receives wages or stipends for working in a lab is an employee. Thus, the Boston College Chemical Hygiene Plan covers all faculty, staff, students (undergraduate and graduate) and post-doctoral researchers who work in the teaching or research labs. Because the circumstances and hazards are the same for unpaid students and visitors who work in the labs, the rules also apply to them, though the legal implications are not the same.

Informational Resources

The Boston College Chemical Hygiene Plan is available for review on the web-site of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety at this link.

An operational summary of the Chemical Hygiene Plan customized for Merkert Chemistry Center is available here.

A collection of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSes) in hard-copy form are available in room 125H. A data-base collection of MSDSes is available on the computer in 125H. MSDS files are available at the University of Vermont-Montpelier’s website at this link.

There are several compendiums of information available on site in the main office: Hawley’s Condensed Chemical Dictionary and Lewis’s Hazardous Chemicals Desk Reference.

Equipment Support

The department provides many items of equipment to its research and educational staff to help them to be safe and in compliance. Among them:

  • Prescription safety glasses
    (subsidized for lab staff, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers)
  • Visitor safety glasses
  • Lab coats
    (provided free of charge to incoming graduate students)
  • Broken glass containers
  • Sharps containers
  • Chemical waste containers
  • Container labels

Hazardous Waste Management

Informational Resources

The Boston College Lab Waste Management Plan is available for review at this link.

Radiation Safety

Informational Resources

The Boston College Radiation Safety Plan is available for review on the web-site of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety at this link.

Fire Safety

Informational Resources

Fire Safety Information

Boston College Department of Chemistry

Merkert Center, Boston College, 2609 Beacon Street, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467-3860
© 2016 Boston College Chemistry