Last Revised: April 04, 2024

Last updated: 4/2024

Quick answers to your most frequently asked questions.   

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Laboratory Waste

Laboratory Waste

1. I have a large number of expired or unneeded chemicals; must I submit an individual waste request for each container?

No. Submit one Waste Request Form and indicate approximately how many containers need to be picked-up.  Someone from EHRS will contact you soon to provide additional guidance and to coordinate the pickup

2. I have some unwanted or empty compressed gas cylinders; who do I contact to have them removed?

Whenever possible, gas cylinders should be returned to the manufacturer or supplier that owns them.  Contact information can generally be found printed on the cylinder label or hang tag.

For lecture bottles, disposable propane/MAPP gas or other cylinders that cannot be returned, submit an online Waste Request Form to schedule a pickup with EHRS.

3. How do I dispose of a glass-disposal box?

When glass-disposal boxes are 2/3 full, boxes must be closed, sealed, and placed next to the landfill waste for removal by the housekeeping staff.  Please ensure boxes are lined with a heavy plastic clear liner and the cardboard is not compromised.  Refer to the EHRS Laboratory Glassware/Plasticware Disposal Policy for more information.

4. What is a p-listed chemical?

Certain acutely hazardous chemicals, known as “p-listed” chemicals, have special disposal requirements with regards to unwanted reagents, empty containers, and broken bottles/spill cleanup.  Common p-listed chemicals that you may have in your lab include sodium azide, sodium cyanide, potassium cyanide, and copper cyanide.  Click here to access a complete list of p-listed chemicals.  

For guidance on the management of p-listed hazardous waste, see the P-Listed Hazardous Waste Fact Sheet on our website or contact for more information.   

5. How can I get a partially filled chemical waste container removed from my lab?

If you have partially filled carboys or other partial containers that you want to get picked up, please place a prominent check mark on the top right side of the chemical waste label.  This signals to EHRS that the container is ready to go even though it is only partially filled.  Click here for more information or to submit a request.

6. Do I need secondary containment for the waste bottles in my fume hood?

Yes!  Fume hoods are not considered secondary containment for any bottles identified as liquid waste (e.g., those with yellow chemical waste labels).  Secondary containment bins for liquid waste can be requested through EHRS using the Chemical Waste Pickup FormPlease note, secondary containment rules do not apply to intermediate containers stored in the hood.  For more information, see Penn's Chemical Waste Management Guidelines

7. Do I need to separate my halogenated and non-halogenated organic solvent waste streams?

EHRS strongly encourages you to separate halogenated organic solvent waste from non-halogenated organic solvent waste if your lab space isn’t restricted or made unsafe due to the physical footprint from these two waste carboys.  The main reason for the separation is disposal cost.  Halogenated solvents are about 9 times more expensive to dispose of than non-halogenated.  For example, the disposal cost for a 5-gallon carboy of non-halogenated waste is $4.00 versus $37.50 for a 5-gallon carboy of a halogenated mixture at greater than 50% halogenated.  For more information, see Penn's Chemical Waste Management Guidelines

8. How long can I store chemical waste in the lab?

Chemical waste streams should remain in the lab no longer than 12 months.  Reactive bucket wastes should remain in the lab for no longer than 3 months.  For more information, see Laboratory Waste Chemical Management Guidelines.  

9. How do I dispose of my empty chemical bottles?

EHRS recently updated our website with chemical container disposal guidance protocols and quick reference flowcharts for both Main Campus and NBC Campus; see Disposal Guidance for Empty Chemical Containers for further information.  After a hazard assessment to determine if EHRS must pick up a container as waste, a chemical container that has been emptied by ‘reasonable means’ (i.e. pouring, dumping, pumping, scraping) can be processed by lab staff.  Processing includes triple rinsing, defacing labels, drying, and building-specific disposal.  For more clarification, direct questions to

10. Can I obtain, order, or purchase glass disposal boxes or supplies for infectious waste collection (sharps waste container, red biohazard bag) from EHRS?

Though select containers and supplies for chemical waste can be requested from EHRS, infectious waste containers (sharps waste container, red biohazard bag) or glass disposal boxes are not supplied by EHRS.  You are responsible for obtaining those supplies for your own use, and they can be purchased from a scientific vendor.  Check Penn Marketplace for products available from your favorite vendors.

11. How do I properly dispose of a disposable sharps container?

The lid for disposable sharps waste container should be closed when the container is 2/3 full or has reached the printed full mark.  To properly dispose, first autoclave the closed container, then place it in the biohazardous collection bin.  For more information, refer to Proper Disposal of Sharp Objects.

12. Who will remove my infectious waste/sharps container?

The procedures for removal of infectious waste/sharps container vary according to your school or building.  Resources for Biohazardous Waste Disposal, which specifies the disposal guidance for the various schools and buildings can be found from EHRS website.

13. My lab participates in the Reusable Sharps Container Program and one of our reusable sharps container has not been emptied.  What should I do?

Removal of reusable sharps containers for infectious waste is fulfilled by an external vendor, Curtis Bay Energy, who is also responsible in making sure that the containers are checked and replaced on a weekly basis.  If your reusable sharps waste container has not been checked or replaced routinely, notify the customer service representative for Curtis Bay Energy.  Information about the reusable sharps container program at Penn can be found here.

14. How do I dispose of unknown chemicals?

An unknown chemical must be managed as hazardous waste and be evaluated on a case-by-case basis prior to removing it from your lab.  Submit a Chemical Waste Pickup Request and write ‘Unknown’ in the Pickup Comments section along with any details you and your associates can provide about the unknown, such as:  possible contents, location found, etc.  Someone from EHRS will be in touch with the next step.  

15. Does EHRS pick up chemically contaminated pipettes/tips?

No.  Chemically contaminated sharps, including pipettes and pipette tips, are handled in a similar way as biologically contaminated sharps, except they cannot be autoclaved.  Place sharps in a leak-proof, puncture-resistant lidded container labeled with the universal biohazard symbol.  Label container by hand or sticker with the words “Chemically Contaminated Sharps Waste – Do not Autoclave” and dispose as infectious waste.  For more information, see Chemical Contaminated Sharps Policy.

16. How do I dispose of my undated or expired peroxide formers?  

Some chemicals may form explosive peroxides after exposure to air.  Do not move/relocate undated or expired peroxide forming chemicals.  Request a chemical waste pickup request and include the following information in the pickup request comments: 1) our lab has undated/expired peroxide formers; and 2) the location of the specific containers.  For more information on peroxide formers, see SOP: Peroxide Formers 

17. A vendor contacted my lab with a sales pitch for a chemical waste disposal product.  Is there anything my lab should be aware of before responding?

EHRS serves as the institution’s environmental compliance office and is responsible for assessing vendors and products.  Please contact EHRS Operations Manager Kevin O’Neil or Compliance Manager Jim Crumley if you are approached in this manner.

Laboratory Safety

Laboratory Safety

1. I think my fume hood is malfunctioning.  What should I do?

Close the hood sash and do not use the hood until EHRS confirms it is functioning properlyContact your building administrator to open a work order.  If the hood is not put back into service within 5 days of contacting your building administrator, contact EHRS. For more information, see our Fume Hood website.

2. How I do a report a safety concern or observation in my lab?

There are several avenues you can pursue for reporting a safety concern in your lab. You may fill out this webform on EHRS’s website. If you want to report the concern anonymously, you may do so using Penn’s Confidential Reporting and Help Line, P-COMPLY.  BioRAFT users can also report lab and lab-building related safety issues, anonymously or non-anonymously, directly through BioRAFT by using ObservNow (Pennkey login required).

3. Do I need to flush my emergency eyewash?

Yes!  Eyewashes need to be activated weekly to ensure proper function and clean water.  Test the eyewash in your laboratory if it drains into the sink or is plumbed to a drain.  Continue to test it on a weekly basis.  Contact your building administrator if your eyewash is not functioning properly or if it drains to the floor.  Click here for a video clip from a Penn lab that shows why flushing your eyewashes is so important. 

4. How do I request more chemical inventory barcode labels for my lab?

To request more barcode labels for your chemical inventory, please complete our webform to officially route your request to our Chemical Inventory Team.  The barcode request section is at the bottom of the form.  A member of our Chemical Inventory Team will deliver the labels to your lab.

5. Does the EHRS lab inspection checklist ever change?

Yes!  We frequently update our checklist as regulations and policies change and as we learn new information that will improve lab safety.  EHRS recently created a new finding in BioRAFT for fume hoods that are found in “purge” (emergency exhaust) mode during lab inspections; for more information, see our Fume Hood website.  We also updated our “chemical waste stored in the laboratory too long” finding to include language about disposal of partially filled containers; see the “Laboratory Waste” section of our Lab Safety Quick FAQ archive for more information.  Lastly, we added a new finding “floors/aisles are obstructed within less than 36 inches” for use in situations where a walkway is obstructed, hindering emergency egress.

 6. What type of gloves should I use when working with chemicals?

Disposable nitrile gloves (minimum thickness of 4 mil) provide adequate protection against accidental hand contact with small quantities of most laboratory chemicals.  For exceptions, review Fact Sheet: Disposable Nitrile Gloves in Chemical LabsLab workers who contaminate their gloves should immediately remove them, wash their hands, and don new gloves.  Lab workers should contact EHRS for advice on chemical resistant glove selection when direct or prolonged contact with hazardous chemicals is anticipated.  More details about the proper use and limitations of nitrile glove use can be found at Lab Coat, Gloves and Safety Eyewear Policy

7. Why are we still getting reminders to certify our Chemical Hygiene Work Plan form?  I thought we already did this!

Your lab’s Hazards List and Chemical Hygiene Work Plan are two separate documents that must be certified by your PI.  To complete certification of both, your PI must: 1) click on the Hazards List link in the notification email and sign in with their PennKey; 2) then click "submit" at the bottom of the page to certify the Hazards List; and 3) scroll to the bottom of the following page for the Chemical Hygiene Work Plan and click "submit" there as well to finish the certification.  If the PI misses the second submission, they’ll continue to get reminders.  For more information, see How to Certify the Lab Hazard Identification Survey in BioRAFT

8. How do I contact EHRS with my questions? 

You can contact EHRS any time through via email at or via phone at 215-898-4453.  Should you wish to connect with a specific individual, you can find their contact information on our website hereBioRAFT users can also report lab and lab-building related safety issues, anonymously or non-anonymously, directly through BioRAFT by using ObservNow (Pennkey login required).

9. How should I notify EHRS that my lab is closing or relocating?

EHRS has a webform that must be submitted when a lab is preparing to close.  It may be submitted by anyone with information about an upcoming lab move or closure.  It should be submitted as soon as possible so that we can help lab occupants to responsibly shutdown operations and prepare to vacate.  Refer to these Lab Close-Out Procedures for tasks that are required before the lab is vacated. 

10. How do I safely remove a stubborn gas-cylinder valve cover?

The use of excessive force and inappropriate tools for removing stubborn gas-cylinder valve covers poses a serious potential hazard.  The SOP for Compressed Gases on the EHRS website offers guidance for handling this situation in the “Storage and Transport” section.  An appropriate cap-removal tool, available through AirGas, may be required and is the lab’s responsibility to purchase.  For specific information on these options and guidance on handling tight cylinder caps, see our SOP: Compressed Gases

11. Do I need a DEA registration and/or EHRS approval to purchase drug precursor chemicals on the DEA chemical list?

Unlike controlled substances, a DEA registration is not required to purchase DEA listed chemicals, but vendors may request additional information when ordering. Lab staff should complete the vendor supplied forms that are used to document the intended use.  EHRS review/approval is not required for these chemical purchases.  Precursor chemicals include some common laboratory chemicals such as acetone, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, and toluene.  For a full list, go here.  For more information, see Purchasing Drug Precursor Chemicals (List I and II)

12. Can you tell me more about BioRAFT’s upcoming name change to SciShield?

After nearly 20 years as BioRAFT, BioRAFT has changed their name to SciShield.  The name SciShield embodies their mission to provide scientists and scientific organizations with the solutions required to maintain safe and productive laboratories. In the coming months, SciShield will be working with Penn to plan a near seamless migration of our current BioRAFT instance over to SciShield, which will include a URL change.  Stay tuned for more information. 

13. What chemicals must be tracked in my ChemTracker inventory?

You must track inventory of any research chemicals that are physical, environmental, or health hazards. This includes all solvents and other flammables, reactive substances, corrosives, irritants, toxics, hazardous compressed gases, etc. Exempt chemicals include chemicals in small quantity that are sold as part of a kit; stock solutions and other mixtures of chemicals that were prepared in your lab and/or transferred into a new container (such as wash bottles of solvents); household products, and products with no chemical hazards.  For more information, see our ChemTracker User’s Guide.

14. How can I tell when my chemical fume hood was last certified?

EHRS oversees the entry of annual fume hood certification data in BioRAFT. You can find the information for the hoods in your lab by going to the “Equipment” tab in your lab’s BioRAFT/SciShield profile. The fume hoods that are associated with your lab spaces will be listed there along with the “audit expiration date.” Click on the record for each fume hood to view details, including service records. Go to the EHRS website for more information on fume hoods, including inspection and repair procedures.  

15. Can you offer guidance on the kind of chair I should purchase for our lab?

Laboratory furniture must have smooth, non-permeable surfaces that resist the absorption of liquids and the harsh effects of disinfectants.  Chairs used in laboratory spaces should be covered with a non-porous material, like vinyl, that can be easily decontaminated.  Chairs with a mesh back rest are not acceptable.  For more information, see Chair/Stool Specification on the EHRS website.

16. Help!  My lab is running low on a chemical and the replacement is backordered.  Can EHRS search to see if we can borrow it from a neighboring lab? 

The EHRS Chemical Inventory Team can help you locate chemicals in other labs across campus.  Use the Chemical Borrow Request webform to submit your search request.  Remember that all chemical sharing is voluntary and requires the permission of the lab that owns the chemical as well as the approval of the PI for the lab that wishes to borrow or adopt the chemical.

17. What should I do if I’m having trouble matching a container to a chemical or product record in ChemTracker?

Submit a “Problem-Container Form” and the EHRS Chemical Inventory Team will create the chemical record for you complete with the appropriate hazard and regulatory information.  We'll email you to let you know when the record has been created and provide instructions for adding this material to your inventory in the future.

18. Who do I contact with questions regarding reproductive health in the workplace?  

The EHRS department and Occupational Medicine both offer confidential reproductive health counseling for University employees.  The purpose of the EHRS Reproductive Health Program is to ensure that employees understand the reproductive hazards in their work environment and the controls that are in place to prevent exposure.  You may reach out to EHRS at any point in your pregnancy journey: pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy, and during lactation.  Reproductive health counseling is available to employees of all genders.  Read more about the Reproductive Health Program on the EHRS website.   

Chemical Storage

Chemical Storage, Transport, and Labeling

1. Can all acids be stored together in the same cabinet?

Strongly oxidizing acids (e.g. Perchloric acid, nitric acid) are incompatible with organic materials, including organic acids (e.g. Glacial acetic acid).  These compounds react vigorously.  Mineral acids (ie. HCl, H2SO4) can be stored with either acid type.  If a separate cabinet is not available, use secondary containment to segregate incompatible acids.

2. Should I wear my lab coat and gloves when transporting chemical or biological samples outside my lab?

No.  PPE (including lab coat and gloves) must not be worn in public (non-lab) spaces or outside of the building.  Instead of wearing PPE, package your materials so that everything is appropriately contained.  Use secondary containment to protect not only yourself, but also the rest of the University and the community at large.

3. How do I get rid of empty gas cylinders?

Contact the Airgas Penn support group at 855-636-6316 to enter a ticket for the request of additional empty gas cylinders pick-ups.  Airgas is able to take most gas cylinders, but if you are unsure if your cylinder is eligible for Airgas pick-up, just ask when you call.


1. Who do I contact to have my Biosafety Cabinet serviced?

Technical Safety Services (TSS) is a new BSC vendor available on campus that provides certification and repair services.   See the BSC Certification & Repair section of the Biosafety Cabinet page on the EHRS website for more information about how to contact TSS and how to prepare your cabinet for service.

2. What’s the difference between a Biosafety Cabinet, a Clean Bench and a Chemical Fume Hood?

Biosafety Cabinets (BSCs) are used when working with infectious agents and human source material to protect the product, personnel, and environment. Clean benches provide protection for the product only. Fume hood are used for handling chemicals and protect personnel only. More information on Biosafety Cabinets can be found on our website at Biosafety Cabinets.  More information on Fume Hoods can be found our website at Fume Hood Specifications.

comparison of three equipment types

3. How do I safely conduct flame sterilization on an open bench using ethanol?

We do not recommend using ethanol and flame sterilization and encourage alternative approaches. However, if you must, EHRS recommends following the guidance for suggested PPE, work area preparation, ethanol preparation, etc. outlined on our recently created Fact Sheet: Flame Sterilization on the Open Bench

4. How do I properly dispose of a disposable sharps container?

The lid for disposable sharps waste container must be closed and lid securely fastened when the container is 2/3 full.  To properly dispose, first autoclave the closed container if is contains biological contaminants, then place it in the biohazardous collection bin (*do not autoclave chemically contaminated sharps).  If you do not have access to an autoclave, set up an account with Curtis Bay Energy to use their Reusable Sharps Containers.  For more information, refer to Proper Disposal of Sharp Objects and Laboratory Waste Disposal Guide.

5. My lab participates in the Reusable Sharps Container Program and one of our reusable sharps containers has not been emptied. What should I do?

Removal of reusable sharps containers for infectious waste is fulfilled by an external vendor, Curtis Bay Energy, who is also responsible in making sure that the containers are checked and replaced on a weekly basis.  If your reusable sharps waste container has not been checked or replaced routinely, notify the customer service representative for Curtis Bay Energy.  Information about the reusable sharps container program at Penn can be found here.

6. How do I best maintain the refrigerators and freezers in my lab?

Refrigerator and freezer maintenance is a key part of laboratory safety compliance.  If your lab is interested in increasing freezer maintenance efforts while reducing energy consumption, we encourage you to sign up for the 2024 Penn Labs Freezer Challenge using the link posted on Refrigerator & Freezer Inventory and Maintenance.  The challenge runs until June 30, 2024, and offers guidance on cold storage best practices with prizes awarded to the top 3 participating labs.

7. How do I safely heat agarose in the microwave?

Heating agarose in the microwave, while a common laboratory procedure, can result in injury if proper precautions are not taken.  EHRS recently developed a new Fact Sheet on Agarose Heating Safety with specific guidance on PPE requirements and recommendations for microwave heating.  For more information on conducting experiments at elevated temperatures, see Fact Sheet: Heating Reactions.

8. Can I store chemicals in my cold room?

Use of hazardous chemicals and compressed gases in cold rooms is only permitted when approved by EHRS.  Since cold rooms are not ventilated, storage of chemicals inside cold rooms can result in high personnel exposure to accumulated gases and vapors.  If the need arises, contact EHRS for assistance with a hazard control plan.  Likewise, liquid nitrogen dewars and dry ice are prohibited in cold rooms as they can release gases that displace oxygen, creating oxygen deficient atmospheres.  See Section VI: Chemical Storage and Transportation in the Chemical Hygiene Plan and SOP: Cryogens and Dry Ice for more information.

9. Can I use my heat resistant gloves for handling cryogens?

No, heat resistant gloves and cryo-gloves are not interchangeable.  An easy way to remember the difference is to “use the blue for blue temps, orange for orange temps!”  For more information, see Fact Sheet: Heating Reactions; Lab Coat, Gloves and Safety Eyewear Policy; and SOP: Cryogens and Dry Ice.

10. How do I dispose of dry ice?

Do not dispose of dry ice or liquid cryogens in the sink or floor drains, as this can damage the plumbing.  Allow cryogens to evaporate/sublime in an open container in a well-ventilated space.  For more information, see SOP: Cryogens and Dry Ice.

11. How do I submit a new, or 3-year renewal, IBC registration?

The Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) is now accepting all new and renewal IBC registrations for the generation and/or use of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids (rsNA) as well as novel gene editing technologies through a new online platform called Penn IBC Electronic Registration System (PIERS). The registration website login page can be found here.  Instructions for registering with the IBC are available on the EHRS website.

12. Are biohazard burn-up boxes permitted at Penn?

The use of biohazard burn-up boxes is prohibited in Penn laboratories. These boxes are challenging to dispose of, and the cardboard is inappropriate for use in tissue culture rooms. Go to the EHRS website for biohazardous waste disposal options.

13. How old is too old for a Biosafety Cabinet (BSC)?

The expected lifespan for a BSC is 15 years.  Beyond that age, manufacturers may not support equipment.  Finding parts for older BSCs may become impossible or prohibitively expensive.  See the Aging Biosafety Cabinets section for more information.  

14. How do I submit my completed Exposure Control Plan (ECP)?  

The process for uploading ECPs has recently changed.  If you are a PI or LSC, you can now upload your ECP directly to your lab's "Documents" section in BioRAFT.  Upload the document as a "general" file type using the suggested naming convention "Lab Name_ECP_Date of Signatures."  The document will be available to all personnel listed in the "Lab Members" section of your lab profile.  For more information on Exposure Control Plans, see our website here 

Electrical Safety

1. Are there any guidelines for electrical equipment modified or built by lab workers?

Yes! You can view guidelines for electrical equipment that is custom-built or modified here. See the Fact Sheet: Electrical Safety in Labs for more information.

2. Are power strips and extension cords allowed in the lab?

Yes.  Power strips and extension cords may be used in labs; however, there are some restrictions to their use.  See Fact Sheet:  Electrical Safety in Labs for information about these limitations.

3. I heard that there have been a lot of fires caused by hot plates.  What's happening?  

In the past few years, several incidents and near misses involving hot plates have been reported at Penn, including a recent hot plate fire in a BRB cold room (see Hot Plate Malfunctions and Misuse).  The cause of each incident was either electronic malfunction or user error.  Important reminders include: unplugging your hot plate when not in use; using stir-only plates when heat is not required, particularly when stirring non-heat-resistant items; and keeping hot plates out of cold rooms.  Click here for additional guidance.

4. What should I look for before purchasing a 3D printer for our lab?  

3D printers must be listed by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL).  This is required by workplace electrical safety standards and fire codes.  The purpose is to ensure that the printer has been tested through various failure modes and shown to be safe for use.  Common examples of NRTLs are UL, TUV, CSA, ETL and FM.  Please note that CE is not an NRTL.  Many popular consumer grade 3D printers do not carry a NRTL listing and are not appropriate for use at Penn.  Be sure to confirm prior to purchase.  Products that are listed will contain the NRTL certification mark on the product.  For more information on 3D printer hazards, see our 3D Printing Fact Sheet and Guide.  


1. Can you share information about EHRS Workday Learning and non-affiliate laboratory orientation?

Penn Profiler is no longer available to identify required EHRS training for new faculty, staff, and students.  Supervisors of new staff (Research Assistants, Students, Postdoctoral researchers) must now assign EHRS training directly in Workday Learning.  Workday has a role called Learning Partner which can be designated to assist supervisors with enrollment and lab members can self-assign any training. 

EHRS training for specific hazards, such as lasers or rDNA use, must be assigned based on lab-specific research.  EHRS training course descriptions can be found on the EHRS website training page under EHRS Workday Learning Selection Guide to help with training enrollment.  Enrollments prior to March 3, 2023 were automatically moved to Workday Learning and do not need to be reassigned.  Managers should follow this Tip Sheet Workday Learning Manager Enrollment Tip Sheet to enroll new team members. 

Non-affiliated students (undergraduates or postgraduates from other universities or colleges, or high school students) who plan to work in a Penn laboratory are required to take Introduction to Laboratory and Biological Safety at Penn for Non-Affiliates.  EHRS has online and in-person laboratory orientation options.  Students must complete orientation before working in a Penn laboratory.  High school students must also provide their PI or program a consent form to work in a Penn laboratory.  Please go to the EHRS Non-Affiliate Laboratory Orientation Selection Page for detailed information. 


1. How do I get more information on domestic shipping?

There will be variation for shipping requirements depending on the nature of the materials to be shipped.

If you are shipping various biological materials (pathogens, recombinant vectors, infected cell, tissue, etc.) with or without dry ice, then you must complete and be current for the Shipping training (required every 2 years).  Training is offered in person on a monthly basis, when available, or online through Workday Learning.  Those with current training will have access to the University’s enhanced express shipping system, eShip.  For further assistance with shipping biological materials and dry ice, contact Marie-Luise Faber at 215-746-6706.

If you are shipping hazardous chemicals, you should contact Jim Crumley at 215-746-5036 for assistance. 

Before shipping any radioactive materials, you should contact Chris Tighe at 215-898-8987 for guidance.

Note that transfer of biological and chemical materials into or out of the United States may trigger the need for permits or licenses.  If this is the case, you should work with the University of Pennsylvania’s Office of Research Services to verify applicable regulations and, if necessary, apply for the appropriate license.  In addition, you should work with the intended recipient to determine the applicable regulations and permitting requirements for importation of the materials into that country.

For information about the Shipping Program, refer to the EHRS Shipping website. Contact SHIPPINGDG@LISTS.UPENN.EDU with additional questions.

2. What do I need to be aware of for shipping chemical compounds?

Chemical compounds with hazardous properties must be shipped as hazardous materials and must be packed and labeled properly in accordance to the Dangerous Goods Regulations of International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Hazardous Materials Regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).  If you have chemicals that need to be shipped, contact SHIPPINGDG@LISTS.UPENN.EDU for guidance and assistance.  Refer to the EHRS Shipping website for more information.

3. What are some of the considerations for shipping internationally?

Transfer of biological and chemical materials into or out of the United States may trigger the need for permits or licenses.  If this is the case, you should work with the University of Pennsylvania’s Office of Research Services to verify applicable regulations and, if necessary, apply for the appropriate license.  In addition, you should work with the intended recipient to determine the applicable regulations and permitting requirements for importation of the materials into that country.

Click here for current guidance for shipping materials to countries with restrictions. 

Refer to the EHRS Shipping website for more information. Contact SHIPPINGDG@LISTS.UPENN.EDU with additional questions.


1. How do I disinfect a microscope with multiple users? 

Commonly used disinfectants may not be compatible for delicate parts of a microscope.  You should refer to the product manual and consult the technical representative for the manufacturer for advice on proper decontamination procedure for the equipment.  Note that the disinfectant should also be effective for inactivation of microbial agents that may be present in the analyzed samples.

COVID-19 topics


April, 2020 

While most of you have suspended your laboratory operations and are isolating yourselves at home, we want you to know that EHRS is still here to support both your wellness and your research.

We’re sending this special COVID-19 edition of the Lab Safety Quick FAQs with answers to some of the questions you might have during this period of disrupted operation and working from home.  If you have any other questions or want to talk to an EHRS staff member, please feel free to email us or call our main office number: 215-898-4453.

Physical Hazards

How can I ensure that my home office is set up properly for remote work?

EHRS has recommendations for office furniture, equipment set up, workstation accessories, and exercises to help you transition to an appropriate remote work environment. Visit the Ergonomics page under Penn’s Health & Safety Resources for more information. (Tip:  Expand the “computer ergonomics” menu on the left side of the webpage to view specific topics.) Additional tips can be found in the Guide to Setting up a Safe, Healthy and Productive Home Office and in Ergonomic Considerations in Setting up a Home Office Workspace.



How do I clean my lab if there’s been an exposure to COVID-19?

EHRS has compiled a list of resources and safety information for the COVID-19 virus. See the EHRS Covid-19 Safety Information page for more information.


Lab Safety

What activities can I do remotely to make sure I’m ready to resume lab work quickly and safely upon return to campus?

We’ll be in touch again soon with special guidance for restarting your lab operations.  For now, consider these suggestions for safety and compliance tasks and learning opportunities you can catch up on remotely.



August, 2020

As you continue ramping up your research during the research resumption phase, we want you to know that EHRS is still here to support both your wellness and your research.

We’re sending this special COVID-19 edition of the Lab Safety Quick FAQs with answers to some of the questions you might have during the research resumption phase.  If you have any other questions or want to talk to an EHRS staff member, please feel free to email us or call our main office number: 215-898-4453.


Laboratory Waste

Oops!  The last time our lab disposed of chemical waste was before campus operations were suspended.  What should we do?

Hazardous chemical waste should not be stored in your lab for longer than 3 months.  Therefore, chemical waste that was generated before operations were suspended is now out of compliance with Penn’s Laboratory Chemical Waste Management Guidelines.  Check the date on your chemical waste tags and request a chemical waste pickup using this form if needed.

How do I dispose of my infectious waste?  

Penn has transitioned all infectious waste disposal to Curtis Bay RMW Services.  The procedures for removal vary according to your school or building.  Click here for disposal guidelines and other biohazardous waste disposal resources.  Still have questions?  Contact Assistant Biosafety Officer Marie-Luise Faber at


Lab Safety

Will EHRS be resuming laboratory inspections during the research resumption phase?

Yes.  Two methods will be employed: EHRS-initiated self-inspections and inspector-led building walkthrough surveys.  Self-inspections will be administered via BioRAFT and can be completed by either the PI or the Lab Safety Coordinator.   Building surveys will focus on easily observed lab-worker compliance with COVID-19 safety policies and targeted health/safety procedures.  Your lab will receive a “Lab Safety Issue Requires Your Attention” report via BioRAFT if an EHRS inspector observes compliance issues in your area during building surveys.



Where can I find Biosafety guidance for research with COVID-19 samples or SARS-CoV-2?

Visit Biosafety Guidance for COVID-19 Research Projects for information about appropriate practices, containments, and precautions that must be in place when conducting research involving COVID-19 patient samples and SARS-CoV-2.   



Does EHRS have signage depicting proper mask use that I can share with my lab?

EHRS recently created a “How to Wear a Facemask” poster with proper mask wearing protocol that will be displayed throughout campus buildings.  Click here to download a copy.

What if the nature of our research complicates our ability to comply with physical distancing guidelines? 

Some specialized activities that are critical to research progress require closer contact than that designated by PA State guidelines.  Requests for waivers from the physical distance policy must be approved by your chair and implemented only if and when risk mitigation measures are approved by EHRS.  To submit a Physical Distance Waiver Form, click here.