Infectious Agents Exposure


Prudent execution of experiments requires not only sound judgment and an accurate assessment of the risks involved in the laboratory, but also the selection of appropriate work practices, as laid out in the Laboratory Safety Policy  and Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP), to reduce risk and protect the health and safety of trained laboratory personnel as well as the public and the environment. 

Four fundamental principles should underlie all work practices in the lab. Consideration of each should be encouraged before beginning work as part of the culture of safety within the laboratory.

  • Plan ahead. Determine the potential hazards associated with an experiment before beginning.
  • Minimize exposure to chemicals. Do not allow laboratory chemicals to come in contact with skin or eyes. Use laboratory chemical hoods and other ventilation devices to prevent exposure to airborne substances whenever possible.
  • Do not underestimate hazards or risks. Assume that any mixture of chemicals will be more toxic than its most toxic component. Treat all new compounds and substances of unknown toxicity as toxic substances. Consider how the chemicals will be processed and whether changing states or forms (e.g., fine particles vs. bulk material) will change the nature of the hazard.
  • Be prepared for accidents. Before beginning an experiment, know what specific action to take in the event of accidental release of any hazardous substance. Verify telephone numbers to call in an emergency or accident are posted in a prominent location. Know the location of all safety equipment including eyewash stations, safety showers and first aid kits.  Know the location of the nearest fire alarm, fire extinguisher and telephone.  Know who to notify in the event of an emergency and verify faculty have completed their first aid training.

Additional Health Concerns & Reproductive Health

Certain toxins can adversely affect certain health conditions and reproductive health in both males and females or could harm a developing fetus. These include chemicals classified as mutagens, teratogens, embryotoxins, or those with known developmental and reproductive toxicity. Some biologic and radiologic materials can harm reproductive health or an unborn fetus.

Lab students who are pregnant, nursing, planning to conceive or have any other health concerns should review the hazardous materials their work involves. This includes thoroughly reviewing safety data sheets (SDS) and other product literature before using potentially hazardous materials.  Also review engineering controls, personal protective equipment (PPE) selection, and other prudent work practices as outlined in the Chemical Hygiene Plan. 

Lab students are not required to disclose any health concerns.  If a student chooses to disclose a health concern, they may request an individual accommodation through the Office of Disability Services. 

Additional Resources:

Allegheny College Laboratory Safety Policy and Chemical Hygiene Plan

Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Management of Chemical Hazards

Reproductive Hazards