Labeling in the Laboratory
Proper labeling is essential for a safe work environment. It is one of three steps to taking advantage of simple organizational methods in your laboratory (segregation, storing and labeling). Labels come in every imaginable material, size, and complexity. They can be printed on your desktop printer including barcodes if appropriate, or can simply be written with a marker using a piece of paper and tape or written on the container.
All containers in the laboratory must be appropriately labeled with the name of the contents. The label must include the written name of the chemical. Abbreviations and chemical structures should not be substituted for the complete chemical name which can easily be found on the Material Safety Data Sheet. It is also good laboratory practice to write the date received and the date opened on all stock chemicals. The IUPUI Chemical Hygiene Plan, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Laboratory Standard and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) all require proper labeling of all laboratory chemicals, secondary containers and waste jugs. Secondary containers shall be labeled by the individual that fill the container.
Be creative. Work with your lab supervisor in order to learn what chemical preparations are in use. Make a list and create preprinted labels that meet the standard and are easy to use. Labeling drawers, cabinets and shelves eliminates confusion, encourages compliance and makes your chemicals easier to find along with freeing up time which is often wasted trying to locate a chemical. Labeling can actually become addictive once you get the hang of it because labeling can reduce confusion and improve the appearance of your laboratory.
Items such as ice makers and all food items used in the lab shall be labeled "Not for human consumption". Microwaves used in the laboratory shall be labeled "Not for food use". All refrigerators and freezers shall be labeled "No food, drinks or flammables" unless it is an approved flammable storage refrigerator. Existing labels on incoming containers shall not be removed or defaced unless relabeled immediately with the appropriate information.
The absence of labels, illegible labels and unlabeled containers can lead to accidental chemical exposure, the production of unknown chemical waste, fines from regulatory agencies and other problems that have the potential for a negative impact on the integrity of your research. Let's all continue to play our part in making our campus a safer campus.