Chemical Safety

Judith McBride - Director of Laboratory Health & Safety

Chemical Inventory Management System
OHS needs your help in keeping the chemical inventory up-to-date. At the bottom of this page are articles that can provide assistance in helping you get started. If you have any questions, please call 934-2487. 

Information on disposal and recycling of hazardous chemicals

Frequently asked questions:
  1. How do I get Safety Data Sheets (formerly MSDS) and other safety information about the chemicals I work with?
    There are several options for getting safety information about chemicals.
    • Read the container label – the very best source of quick information about a material is the label. Basic hazard information and a contact address, website or phone number must be available on commercially prepared labels. If a user re-labels a container, or labels a temporary container, they must put the chemical name and main hazard on the new label.
    • Look up the material on a chemical distributor's website, for example: Sigma-Aldrich , or Fisher.
    • Access the ChemWatch system from UAB campus through this link: https://jr.chemwatch.net/chemwatch.web/account/autologinbyip
    • Contact OH&S and ask Chemical Safety to provide you with a Safety Data Sheet or other chemical information.
    • Use a search engine to perform a web search for information
  2. There is a chemical odor in my work area, how can I get help?
    If you have symptoms of a chemical exposure such as dizziness, eye or respiratory irritation, warn others and leave the area immediately then call OH&S at 934-2487 from an unaffected location. Otherwise take a moment to gather some preliminary information, and then call OH&S. To provide the best service to you, we will need to know:
    • The location of the problem – building, room and any other details – in a cabinet, near a vent etc.
    • As precise, a description of the odor as you can give – is it sulfur-like, is it solvent like, is it a chemical you recognize
    • When the odor started – call sooner rather than later, so we have the best chance of tracing the source
    • If an unusual process or activity is occurring in your area – is there construction, painting, or a new experiment

    An important note about odors: When reporting "gas" odors please distinguish between natural gas, with a sulfurous, mercaptan odor, and gasoline with a characteristic solvent odor. The required response to these materials is different.

Using the ChemWatch database

UAB has subscribed to the ChemWatch chemical information database as a tool to help the campus community comply with Hazard Communication and Laboratory Safety Plan requirements.

Thousands of (Material) Safety Data Sheets are available in several languages and a variety of formats. The ChemWatch system may be accessed from any computer in the UAB and UAB Medical system by visiting https://jr.chemwatch.net/chemwatch.web/account/autologinbyip.

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Making Sense Out of Chemical Storage

Proper chemical storage is a critical part of laboratory safety. Here are some basic steps for safe, organized chemical storage.

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Tax Free Alcohol Lock Down

lab_person_clipart_92x118_trans“Tax-free” ethanol is federally controlled. Both the 200 and 190 proof ethanol must be secured at all times except when withdrawals are made. Laboratories are subject to inspection at any time by a federal Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) Inspector or other officials.


Because it is federally controlled, it can only be purchased with UAB’s Industrial Alcohol User Permit for specific research or medical purposes.  The specific use and amount withdrawn must be documented when the alcohol is removed from a locked storage cabinet in the laboratory.

If only a relatively small amount is needed, consider reagent alcohol. 
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Are You a Chemical Hoarder?

chemical_shelf_clipartIs your lab’s chemical storage area a nostalgic trip to the previous century? Can you chronicle the evolution of JT Baker’s labeling system from the fabulous fifties through Y2K? Do your solvents remember where they were when Reagan was shot? Are your storage cabinets so crowded that you cannot find materials that you need so you order more? If so, you are a chemical hoarder!  

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