While just about anything can be considered a chemical, for the purposes of safety concerns a chemical is defined as:

All solids, liquids, and gases not excepted below

  • This includes:
    • All stock materials such as wood, metal and plastic that will be cut or formed into other shapes; and
    • Solder, welding rods, grinding wheels and any other materials that will be used up or worn down as part of their use.
    • Chemical Examples
      • Cleaners (Windex, furniture polish, alcohol wipes, Simple Green, etc.)
      • Paints (M.A.B. Latex wall paint, Rustoleum or Krylon Spray paints, etc.)
      • Sheet metal (stainless, copper, aluminum, etc.)
      • Powders (sweeping compound, absorbent, etc.)
      • Gases (nitrogen, argon, helium cylinders, etc.)
      • Lubricants (WD-40, Gear oil, cutting oils, etc.)

  • Exceptions include:
    • Articles – items sold in their finished shape where their use is a function of that shape. (NOTE: This does not include liquids or powders; such items are considered chemicals);
      • For example, a plastic chair is made of chemicals, but is used as a function of it's shape, as a chair. If you were to melt down the chair and reuse the plastic, it becomes a chemical.
    • Wood products that are not treated, and will not be cut;
    • Tobacco, food and beverages, drugs, cosmetics;
    • Hazardous wastes (while these may be chemical, wastes are covered under a different set of rules); and
    • Items having radiological hazards or consisting of biological materials (bacteria, viruses, etc.) While these may be chemical in nature, they are covered by a different set of rules.
    • Exception Examples
      • Electronic Components (circuits, resistors, capacitors, etc.)
      • Hardware (screws, nuts, bolts, ty-wraps, etc.)
      • Tools (saw/knife blades, screwdrivers, power tools, etc.)

Purchasing or Receiving Chemicals

  • All chemicals to be brought on site at PPPL must have review and approval by ES&H. There are two basic versions of approval, a Chemical Approval Number and NO Approval Needed.

Chemical Approval Number

The basic method for gaining approval to purchase or receive a new chemical.
  • Go to the Industrial Hygiene Web Site, and click on ES&H Purchase Approval Database.
  • From there, you may submit a request for approval on a purchase of a new chemical, or search for chemicals that have already been approved.
  • If submitting a request for the purchase or receipt of a new chemical, fill in as much information on the form as possible, and hit submit.
  • If you have one, send a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to Industrial Hygiene (IH) at or The chemical can not be approved until an MSDS has been reviewed. If you do not have one, IH will attempt to get an MSDS from the manufacturer.
  • IH will then review the request for purchasing the chemical. If the chemical purchase is approved, an approval number will be assigned and notification by email will be sent to the requester detailing any restrictions and precautions for use.
  • Be sure to enter the Approval Number into the appropriate location in the Reviews tab of the PCard Log or Online Requisition System.
  • It is the user's responsibility to follow the restrictions and precautions, and to read and understand the MSDS for that product.

If the Chemical has an approval number assigned then the chemical may be purchased as often as needed for any use, as long as any restrictions are met. Be sure to place the Approval Number into the PCard Log or Online Requisition System.

NO Approval Needed Chemicals

If a chemical is a regularly used product, and poses minimal hazards, it may be added to the database as NO Approval Needed.
  • When purchasing chemicals where NO Approval is Needed as shown in the database at:
    then absolutely no additional approval is needed as long as all restrictions are met.
  • Do NOT mark the "Chemical Approval Required" check box on either the PCard Log or online Requisition System.
  • You may, if desired, add a comment that the product is listed as NO Approval Needed, but this is not required.
  • If you have a chemical that you feel should be NO Approval Needed, please contact Bill Slavin at
  • It is up to the user to read the Material Safety Data Sheet, understand the hazards, and take the appropriate precautions.

Flow Chart

For a flow chart demonstrating the purchase approval process, click the link below.

Using Chemicals

Most chemicals present health and safety hazards to people who work with them. To prevent illness or injury, there are certain things you should do: Read the chemical label, read the MSDS, and follow the precautions listed.

Chemical Labels

  • Every chemical container must have a label on it indicating the exact name and the hazards of the chemical.
  • Containers coming direct from the manufacturer must also have their name and address.
  • Labels provided by the manufacturer should not be removed or altered.
  • Follow the safety precautions indicated on any label.

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

  • Every chemical on site must have a MSDS. The name on the MSDS must match the name on the container.
  • MSDS's for all chemicals on site should be available through our online database system located here.
  • If an MSDS cannot be located, contact Bill Slavin at
  • The MSDS contains most of the safety information you need to work safely with a chemical.
  • If you do not understand the contents of the MSDS, or it is not specific enough (many MSDS's tell you to wear "protective gloves" but not what type of glove it should be) please contact Bill Slavin
  • You must read and understand the MSDS for any chemical BEFORE you use it.

Standard Precautions

  • For work with most liquid chemicals, chemical splash goggles and protective gloves must be worn.
  • Note that the required glove material (such as neoprene, nitrile, PVA, etc.) may differ between different chemicals. Gloves may be protective against one chemical, but may offer no protection against another. Contact [ Bill Slavin] for more information.
  • If a chemical is fairly toxic (poisonous) and produces vapor, the chemical may be required to be used inside a laboratory hood.

Working with Graphite


  • Chemicals must be properly stored to prevent spills, mixing of incompatible chemicals, and fire hazards.
  • Flammable liquids (more than 1 gallon) must be stored in a Flammable Liquid Cabinet
  • Corrosive materials (more than 5 gallons) must be stored in a corrosives cabinet.
  • Chemicals stored in quantities greater than 5 gallons ''should'' have secondary containment, an enclosure to prevent a spill from spreading. All corrosives ''must'' have secondary containment.


To dispose of any chemical at PPPL, fill out a Hazardous Waste ID tag (available in the Stockroom), attach a copy of the MSDS, and forward the top copy of the tag to Material and Environmental Services (M&ES), MS 03. The chemicals will be picked up and disposed of properly.