Laboratory Safety

Laboratory Safety

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Laboratory Safety Program is a comprehensive program responsible for ensuring compliance rules, regulations and best manages and practices applicable to both academic (teaching) and research laboratories. It is comprised of three unique programs designed to address those hazards associated with the chemical agents, biological agents, radiation sources (radioactive materials, radiation producing devices, and lasers), associated with as laboratory environment.


Each faculty member or Principal Investigator (PI) is responsible for the safety of individuals working within his or her laboratories. This includes ensuring every individual working in the lab is provided the appropriate training; that the required personal protective equipment and lab safety equipment are provided, maintained, and used; that specific standard operating procedures are observed; and that prompt action is taken to correct any unsafe acts or conditions which have been observed or reported.

Each academic department technician and staff member worker is responsible for implementing the requirements of the Academic Laboratory Safety Program. This includes participating in required training, utilizing appropriate lab safety equipment, personal protective equipment and apparel, observing standard operating procedures, and informing the responsible individual of any accidents or unsafe conditions.

Information specific to each laboratory and machine shop should be disseminated at the beginning of each academic quarter and included in the course syllabus. This information should include the appropriate attire, personal protective equipment, safety guidelines, laboratory/shop hours, supervision requirements and emergency information.


The Laboratory Safety Program is divided into three unique programs designed to individual address the unique rules regulations applicable to the use of each of the respective agents in the laboratory environment. Click the following links to review respective information regarding the different programs

UTRGV Program Documents

New Researcher Laboratory Hazard Assessment Form

All Principal Investigators are required to complete the New Researchers Laboratory Hazard Assessment Form prior to conducting research. This form helps the Department of Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management (EHSRM) to assess and determine the appropriate controls necessary to address any hazards in the respective laboratory. In some cases, committee approval is required prior to the purchase of some hazardous materials including, but not limited to, all radiation producing materials, infectious agents, and acutely toxic agents.

Minors in the Laboratory

Minors involved in research studies present additional risks beyond the normal undergraduate and graduate personnel that general work and study in laboratories. Please read the following document entitled Policy Governing Minors in the UTRGV Laboratories. It outlines the additional requirements when working and studying with minors in a Research Laboratory.

To summarize.

  1. All minors are required to attend laboratory safety training "in person" prior to working in the laboratory. This is normally done on a program basis (STEM, etc.) at the start of the summer.
  2. Minors are prohibited from working with radioactive materials, infectious (BSL-2) agents, experiments involving nano-particles, or acutely toxic agents.
  3. Departments are responsible for ensuring that the mandated personal protective equipment (PPE) in the form of lab coats, eye protection and gloves are available for minors to utilize.
  4. All personnel who will be working or studying with minors in the laboratory are required to attend "Child Protection" training. Information can be found at the following link:

Controlled Substances: How and When to Apply for a DEA Permit

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) strictly regulates controlled substances (drugs) and precursor chemicals (chemicals used to make drugs). You must obtain a DEA permit prior to ordering or working with drugs such as ketamine, steroids, all forms of barbital etc. To see if a chemical is a controlled substance, review the document at the following link : DEA "List of Controlled Substances".

If your chemical is on the list, note the Schedule number and drug code as you may need it on the application. The application process is dependent on the specific schedule.

Schedule I – Drugs
Researchers with Schedule I drugs only must submit DEA 225 PDF application and the protocol found in 21 CFR 1301.18. You cannot apply online for your initial application.

Schedule II - V Drugs
Researchers can apply through the US Postal Service at the following link: 


Principal Investigators are responsible for the control of all controlled substances in their care.

Disposal of controlled substances can be facilitated by contacting the UTRGV EHSRM Office by either emailing or calling at 956-665-8995. 

Precursor Chemical Laboratory Apparatus (PCLA)

The following outlines the institutional policy for the use of controlled items (chemical precursors and certain lab apparatus) on the campus of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

In October 1995, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board signed an agreement that, in accord with Health and Safety Code, Section 481.0621 (b), establishes procedures for maintaining controlled substances, controlled substance analogues, chemical precursors, and chemical laboratory apparatus used in educational or research activities of institutions of higher education. Full compliance with this memorandum is required.

The following is a list of controlled items whose purchase, use, and disposal must be monitored.

Chemical precursor means:

  • Methylamine
  • Ethylamine
  • D-lysergic acid
  • Ergotamine tartrate
  • Diethyl malonate
  • Malonic acid
  • Ethyl malonate
  • Barbituric acid
  • Piperidine
  • N-acetylanthranilic acid
  • Pyrrolidine
  • Phenylacetic acid
  • Anthranilic acid
  • Ephedrine
  • Pseudoephedrine
  • Norpseudoephedrine
  • Phenylpropanolamine
  • Hypophosphorous acid (by rule, TAC)
  • Red phosphorus (by rule, TAC)

Chemical laboratory apparatus means any item of equipment designed, made or adapted to manufacture a controlled substance or a controlled substance analogue, such as:

  • a condenser
  • a distilling apparatus
  • a vacuum dryer
  • a three-neck or distilling flask
  • a tableting machine
  • an encapsulating machine
  • a filter, Buchner or separatory funnel
  • an Erlenmeyer, two-neck or single-neck flask
  • a round-bottom, Florence, thermometer or filtering flask
  • a Soxhlet extractor
  • a transformer
  • a flask heater
  • a heating mantel
  • an adapter tube


In 1996, a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, commits the university to establish procedures that specify:

  1. personal responsibility for secure use of the controlled items;
  2. record-keeping requirements for purchases;
  3. procedures for disposal of unused controlled items;
  4. security procedures governing use of the controlled items; and
  5. a liaison between The University and DPS. Full text of the MOU is available at the Office of Environmental Health & Safety (471-3511).

Responsible Party

Any person with specific authority to purchase or accept controlled items must bear full responsibility for establishing security measures regarding their purchase, acceptance, use, and ultimate disposal. Thus, if the controlled items are to be used in a research program supervised by an individual faculty member, the principal investigator (PI) must assume full responsibility. If the controlled item is to be used in conjunction with the activities in an Organized Research Unit (ORU) outside the operation of a specific sponsored project, the Director of the ORU will be responsible. If the controlled items are to be used in a teaching laboratory or in a demonstration for an organized class, the Chair of the department through which the academic course is offered is the responsible party.

Purchase Orders

The Purchasing Office has put in place a report program to identify and capture purchasing information on controlled items. These reports can be obtained on request by any cognizant party or DPS. The identification and flagging of these purchases do not require any additional action by the ordering or user unit. All laboratory and storeroom personnel will be informed when MOU-specific items are received in order to track distribution to the responsible party.

Surplus Properties

The Supervisor of the University's Surplus Properties will inform the EHSRM of all auctions at least two week prior to the sale. EHSRM will send representatives to the auction area of Surplus Properties in order to identify any items included on the MOU list. These items will be brought to the attention of the Supervisor of Surplus Properties, who will be instructed to sell these items only to individuals having the proper permit or the specific authority to purchase or accept the controlled items. The purchaser will be required to provide to the Supervisor appropriate documentation of the authority to purchase the controlled items (Nar-22 form). This form (available at Surplus Properties) is used to report the sale, transfer, or furnishing of the listed precursor chemicals or lab apparatus.

Security Procedures Governing the Use of Controlled Items

Controlled item security consists of site security, operational security, inventory monitoring, and loss reporting procedures. The responsible individual is required to provide means by which the controlled items can be stored in accordance with recommendations of the manufacturer and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. The storage and handling of controlled items must also adhere to all applicable state and federal laws.

Site Security

The University of Texas Police Department is available to assist in evaluating and making recommendations regarding site security.

  1. Specific locations (e.g., a laboratory or storage area assigned to the responsible party) should be established where controlled items are utilized and or stored.
  2. All doors and windows must be locked when the room containing controlled items is not occupied.
  3. Access to rooms containing controlled items must be restricted to authorized personnel, and key control must be established so that only those authorized can have access to the site.

Operational Security

  1. Procedures must be established by each responsible party to assure the proper use of controlled items in laboratories and storerooms.
  2. Authorized personnel must be alert to any unauthorized personnel entering laboratories containing controlled items, and appropriate action must be taken to assure the security of the controlled items when visitors are present.

Inventory and Reporting of Loss

  1. Prudent procedures must be established by each Responsible Party to monitor consumption and use of controlled items.
  2. Authorized personnel must be alert and attentive to the disappearance of any controlled items and to report losses to the UT Police Department immediately (within the next business day) upon the discovery of the loss.

Designation of a University Liaison

The Chief of Police of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Police Department is designated as the liaison between the Department of Public Safety and the university, and the DPS has been so informed.


The Department of Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management includes information on the MOU in its Laboratory Safety training classes as well as in its Hazardous Waste Disposal training classes. In addition, it is also included in Surplus training classes.

Related Link


Laboratory Safety Training is required for all personnel working in the laboratory and is available either online or in person. See following link for information:

Additional training may be required depending on the specific agents involved in the research. Use the following table to determine the necessary training.

Table 1. Required Training

1. Basic Laboratory Safety:
Do you work or study in a chemistry, biology or biochemistry laboratory? Initial
2. Bloodborne Pathogens:
Do you work or study in a clinical environment? Initial / Annual
3. Bloodborne Pathogens:
Clinical - Refresher
4. Biological Safety:
BSL-3 Agents / rDNA
Do you work or study with BSL3 agents? Initial
5. Basic Laboratory Safety:
Nano materials
Do you work or study nano-materials? Initial
6. Basic Laboratory Safety:
Fine Arts
Do you work or study in an art laboratory? Initial
7. Basic Laboratory Safety:
Do you work or study in an engineering laboratory? Initial
8. Basic Radiation Safety:
Radioactive Materials
Do you work or study with radioactive materials? Initial / Three years
9. Basic Radiation Safety Awareness Do you work adjacent to research utilizing radioactive materials and not directly involved? Initial
10. Basic Radiation Safety:
Do you work or study with radiation producing devices? Initial
11. Laser Safety Do you work or study with lasers? Initial
12. NMR Safety Do you work or study with Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) instruments? Initial
13. Cryogenics Safety Do you work or study with cryogenics? Initial

Other Related Links

The following link is a case study from the Texas Tech University lab accident as investigated by the Chemical Safety Board. The goal of the case study was to identify the events that led to the accident and how the academic community can learn from this tragedy.

EHSRM Program Manager

Javier Garcia

Javier Garcia, RN
EHS Program Manager
EREBL Bldg. 1.322
(956) 665-2052