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Chemical Hygiene and Safety Plan
HAZARD CONTROLS  arrow image 
AND PROCEDURES  arrow image
AND EQUIPMENT  arrow image
APPENDICES  arrow image
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Dye lasers normally use a lasing medium consisting of a fluorescent organic dye dissolved in an organic solvent. For most dyes, little is known about their toxic properties, except that they are often members of chemical families that contain highly toxic materials.  Furthermore, limited testing has indicated that some laser dyes are carcinogenic or mutagenic. Consequently, most dyes should be treated as hazardous chemicals. In many cases, the solvent in which the dye is dissolved plays a major role in the hazards. Most solvents used for dye solutions are flammable and toxic by inhalation and/or skin-absorption.

The following measures were developed to combine the need for a cautious approach to preventing exposures to hazardous chemicals, proper waste management, fire prevention, and practical operating requirements.

Control Measures

  • Work Leads are responsible for identifying laser dyes and solvents used in the work area.  Review sources such as MSDSs for specific compounds. 
  • An assessment of the hazards and controls in place is necessary to limit employee exposures to these agents.  Contact an EH&S Industrial Hygienist to provide assistance.
  • Some operations involving these materials may require an AHD.  This is determined by the using Division in accordance with the provisions in PUB-3000, Chapter 6, “Safe Work Authorizations.”

Training and Information

  • Employees who either handle or who may be exposed to laser dyes and solvents must complete Chemical Hygiene and Safety Training, EHS 348 (or 345 for Facilities personnel or 352 for summer students).
  • All employees in the work area must be trained in the specific hazards and controls of the dyes and solvents being handled.  This is a line management responsibility. EH&S Industrial Hygienists are available to provide assistance.
  • flag image Consult the section entitled: Labels, for labeling requirements for primary and secondary containers. flag image
  • The entrance to the work area must be posted with a Caution Placard depicting hazards and emergency contact information.

Substitution and Chemical Inventory Management

  • Identify and use safer chemical alternatives (e.g., non-mutagenic/carcinogenic dyes or less concentrated forms) if possible. Note that some solvents such as dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and methyl alcohol readily penetrate unbroken skin. Hazardous mutagenic or carcinogenic dyes can enter the body through skin-absorption when dissolved in solvents such as these.
  • If a safer chemical can’t be used then limit what you buy or borrow what you need from a colleague in your group or contact the Chemical Management System coordinator to assist you in finding a source of the chemical at LBNL.
  • Conduct periodic cleanouts to prevent accumulating unneeded chemicals.
  • Procure and use the minimum amount of material required for the operation, or
  • Keep working quantities of chemicals to a minimum. Don’t stockpile chemicals. 
  • Enter these materials into the Chemical Management System (CMS)

Engineering Controls

  • A fume hood must be used when mixing laser dyes or when handling them in a manner that may generate an airborne hazard (such as fumes, gases, vapors, and mists).
  • Install spill pans under pumps and reservoirs or, preferably, enclose them. Make sure that knobs and other protuberances extend through the holes in the enclosures.
  • Leak-test dye pump loops, as appropriate.

Work Practices

  • Do not eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, apply cosmetics, or store food, beverages, and tobacco products in work areas where laser dyes and solvents are being used.
  • Use mechanical pipetting aids when handling dye solutions.
  • Keep containers of solvents and dye solutions closed.
  • Cap off and/or drain dye lines that are not in use.
  • Keep the work area clean. Use wet methods for housekeeping in dye work areas.  Remove visible stains as much as practical during cleanup. (NOTE: Custodians should not do dye cleanup work.)
  • Keep flammable solvents in approved storage lockers.
  • Wash hands after handling laser dyes and solutions.
  • Personnel who have had skin, eye or inhalation exposure to dye powders or solutions should contact an EH&S Industrial Hygienist.
  • Minimize the quantity of pure dye or solutions containing >0.1% of mutagenic/carcinogenic dyes in storage or in use at any time.
  • Ensure maintenance and emergency personnel who may come in contact with dyes and solvents are aware of hazards in order for them to take appropriate precautions by posting Caution Placards at entrances to work areas.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Skin and eye contact shall be prevented. The following PPE should be worn when handling these materials.  Additional information may be found in the Personal Protective Equipment Section:

  • At a minimum, safety glasses with side shields, laboratory coats (coveralls are acceptable in shop settings) and closed-toe shoes will be worn when handling these materials. This is to be considered as minimum protection and must be upgraded if necessary.
  • Additional PPE such as chemical goggles, face shields, chemical aprons, disposable coveralls, chemically resistant gloves and respiratory protection must be worn if there is a greater chance of chemical exposure. An EH&S Industrial Hygienist may be contacted for assistance in selecting appropriate gloves and respiratory protection. The use of respiratory protection requires an industrial hygiene hazard evaluation and a medical clearance, followed by a fit test and training by the Industrial Hygiene Group.
  • Consult “Eye and Face Protection” in the Personal Protective Equipment Section for guidance on the selection, uses, and limitations of safety glasses, chemical goggles, and face shields.
  • Since many chemicals are skin-absorbers (i.e. agents that readily pass through the skin) it is important to select gloves that are chemically resistant to the material.  Consult the PPE section.  This contains a list of skin-absorbing agents and provides detailed guidance for selecting chemically resistant gloves.
  • Gloves must be selected on the basis of their chemical resistance to the material(s) being handled, their suitability for the procedures being conducted, and their resistance to wear as well as temperature extremes. Improper selection may result in glove degradation, permeation of the chemical through the glove and ultimately personal exposure to the chemical.  This is a potentially serious situation.  Consult “Gloves” in the Personal Protective Equipment Section for guidance on the selection, uses, limitations, and disposal of chemically resistant gloves.   An EH&S Industrial Hygienist may also be contacted for assistance in selecting appropriate gloves.

Glove Selection Table

Glove Material Type1

Neoprene Butyl PVC Nitrile Natural Rubber Viton
Benzyl alcohol OK OK -- -- -- OK
Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) -- OK -- -- -- --
Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) -- OK -- -- -- --
Ethylene glycol OK -- OK OK OK --
Ethylene glycol phenyl ether (2-phenoxyethanol)  










Glycerol (glycerin) OK OK OK OK OK OK
Methanol (methyl alcohol) OK OK OK OK OK --
Propylene carbonate -- OK -- OK -- --

1. Check vendor chemical resistance data BEFORE selecting and buying gloves.  DO NOT use unless vendor data demonstrates gloves are acceptable even if they are marked “OK” in this table.  Gloves are available from VWR Scientific and other vendors via the Lab’s Procurement Page.  If you have difficulty obtaining gloves or any other type of PPE, contact an EH&S Industrial Hygienist.


flag image Consult the section entitled Storage Guidelines for hazardous material storage requirements, recommendations and information on chemical incompatibility.  It is recommended that laser dyes be stored separately from solvents.   Requirements for storing laser dyes and solvents are provided below.

Emergency Procedures

  • Consult the “Emergency Procedures and Equipment” section for emergency actions regarding chemical spills and personal exposure to chemicals.
  • In addition to these requirements, the following applies to laser dye and solvent spills:
    • Never use combustible or reactive materials (such as paper towels) to clean up or absorb spills of laser dye and solvents.  Keep an adequate number of appropriate spill kits to meet anticipated needs. These are commercially available through VWR Scientific.  Typically, products containing diatomaceous earth are used for absorbing organic solvents.
    • An emergency eyewash and safety shower should be located in all areas where laser dye and solvents are used. In the event of skin or eye contact, flush the affected area for at least 15 minutes and report to Health Services for evaluation and treatment.

Last updated: 08/31/2010