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Teaching Laboratories
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Please contact us if you don't see your questions answered here.
-- CHEM Teaching Labs Staff



Am I required to take the safety exam?  I'm in my first lab course at UC San Diego, but I have taken general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics labs at my Community College.  I have also taken the safety exam at the Community College.
..... Yes:  all students in CHEM lab courses are presented with a safety exam in each lab course. 
Since you've trained before, you likely have a good grasp of basic lab safety, but you'll need to study our local Lab Rules. See the Lab Safety training Canvas site for your upcoming chemistry lab course or the CHEM TEACHING LABS web pages for links to our rules and other safety education resources , as well as directions to your exam.

I received a message saying I've passed the safety exam for this quarter. I'm good, right?
Check the letter carefully and see if it came from another department. When you enroll in a CHEM lab, you must take a CHEM safety exam, in addition to any required by other departments.

I passed the safety exam in another CHEM lab course; do I need to take it again?
..... YES:  all students in CHEM lab courses are presented with a safety exam in each lab course. Always check your course syllabus to confirm course requirements. It may be time to review the reading materials (especially the new ones), watch the videos and take the exam for your current course.

I'm enrolled in two CHEM lab class and each requires a safety exam; do I need to take two exams?
..... YES, please: all students in CHEM lab courses are presented with a safety exam in each lab course. 

I’m an extension (concurrent enrollment) student and I hope to get into a CHEM lab at the end of Week 1. What do I do about the safety exam?
.....As soon as possible, get access to Canvas on-line course accounts; follow the directions at Concurrent Enrollment Computer Accounts. Review the materials on our CHEM TEACHING LABS and SAFETY EDUCATION web pages. If you have trouble getting access to the on-line exam, please email the Safety Staff with your particular information and we'll make an arrangement for you to take the exam.

I passed the safety exam last quarter and then dropped my lab course. Now I am re-enrolled; do I need to take a safety exam this quarter?
..... It's time to review the training materials and take the exam again. Your knowledge of safety principles and the Lab Rules will be fresh and up to date.


I can't take the exam on-line.
Students needing exam accommodation (such as an alternative format or extra time) for documented hardship or disability should contact the Safety Staff, as soon as possible (and no later than the first day of lab).

I'm having trouble accessing the exam in Canvas.
Please contact Educational Technology Services for access information.

I can't find the exam in my course page.
In Canvas, you'll see several courses that you're enrolled in. For example, a CHEM 7L student sees  "CHEM 7L - Lab Safety Training"Your exam appears only in the LAB SAFETY TRAINING page for your class.

I'm really busy in week 1 -- can't I take a later exam instead?
No. All safety exams are now on line in Canvas and available a full week before the deadline for both registered and waitlisted students. No makeup time is planned for students who miss/skip/forget the on-line exam.

I can’t find my score for the safety exam.
..... In Canvas, check the MY GRADES section. It should give you a score; 95% (rounded to the nearest whole number) passes. Retest as many times as needed to pass, before the deadline.


I missed the on-line exam due to illness. Must I drop the class?
..... No. Please contact the Safety Staff with your particular information as soon as possible. 

Did I pass? Can you verify that I passed the lab safety exam? I received a 94.8%, and the minimum to pass is a 95% (rounded up to the nearest whole number). 
..... Please revisit the rounding rules.

I failed the on-line exam -- what can I do now?
..... Study again. Retest as many times as needed to pass, before the deadline. 


Will my lab class meet in the first week?
..... Yes, usually.  Lab classes begin on the days noted (for each class) in the UC San Diego Schedule of Classes. Most classes meet on Day 1 or Day 2, depending on the lab schedule. Do not skip the first lab meeting; students who do not attend the first hour of the first meeting for a lab class may lose their places in class.

I showed up for lab, but the TA says I’m not enrolled.
..... Stay calm.  You may be in the wrong lab room. Most of our lab classes have several sections which meet simultaneously in different rooms. Check your class schedule and assure yourself that you’re in the correct room for your section. For further assistance, ask the lab staff in the CHEM Teaching Labs Stockrooms (YORK 3150, NSB 1104 or TATA 3304).

I’m on the waitlist for a lab class; can I sit in on the first day, so I don’t fall behind?
..... No. Safety considerations forbid anyone other than enrolled students attending lab sections without prior approval. Plan to attend the Instructor’s first lecture, study Lab Safety training materials and take/pass the Lab Safety Exam in the course 'Lab Safety Training' Canvas page.

I’m a Concurrent Enrollment student and I’m hoping to add a lab class. Who do I see? Can I go to lab?  
..... Contact the staff in the CHEM Teaching Labs Stockrooms (YORK 3150); be prepared to say what class you want and what times you are able to attend. Concurrent Enrollment (Extension) students are added to classes (as space allows) at the end of Week 1.
Safety considerations forbid anyone other than enrolled students attending lab sections without prior approval. Do plan to attend the
Instructor’s first lecture.


I forgot my lab goggles. Is there a way to get an extra pair? Can I borrow a lab coat?
..... Your best option in either case is to purchase a replacement item at the Bookstore (in Price Center) or the FIC Resale Shop (on Library Walk). 

I forgot my hair tie & my TA won't let me work with my hair loose. Do I have to miss a day in lab?
..... No. Keeping your hair and clothing away from flames, equipment, and chemical contamination is smart (& required). Ask in the CHEM Teaching Labs Stockrooms (YORK 3150 or NSB 1104) for a rubber band.  

I own mostly leggings/skinny jeans/tight fitting pants, so my friend told me to wear sweatpants over them to be safe. Is this acceptable attire?
..... Tight fitting pants/leggings/skinny jeans are not recommended for lab work because a splash that is absorbed into the fabric will reach your skin faster than it would with looser pants. We recommend pants with some space between you and the fabric (such as your cotton sweatpants). In an emergency, you’ll have more time to react.

Is the rule about pants different for men & women?
..... Not really.
All the same conditions apply, so the same precautions are used. Everyone wears pants (or equivalent clothing).

I've heard in the past that Converse shoes aren't allowed either, so are they actually allowed in lab?
..... Shoes for lab must be closed over the whole foot (front, back, top); we recommend against absorbent materials. Some teachers have made this a firm rule, so check your class syllabus.

Can I wear loose workout pants over shorts? They are kind of like wind-breaker pants or are only jeans acceptable? What about scrub pants?
..... Yes, and maybe. About wearing "pants over shorts," we are not concerned with what you wear under your clothing.
About "wind-breaker pants," we get concerned about the fabric; Nylon and other lightweight synthetic fabrics behave very badly in a fire -- they melt and stick, transferring a tremendous amount of heat to the skin. Natural fabrics (cotton, wool, linen) will burn, but they're slow to start and easy to extinguish. Most likely, what you’ll find available will be blends of natural and synthetics – look for the ones that are mostly natural fiber.


Where can I find Safety Data Sheets?

Safety Data Sheets (SDS), provide information about the composition and hazards of specific products. Some sources may still use their former name: Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

SDS are available through multiple sources. Many chemical manufacturers provide SDS within their product catalogs.


Once you've found a reliable source, bookmark it on your personal computer. Make an SDS folder on your computer and save the safety data page. Add to your SDS folder as you learn about new materials & build your collection for future review.  

Our EH&S Department provides references for:



Who can I call if I see a problem in lab?
..... Report anything that seems wrong to your Lab TA or your Instructor.
For an urgent problem that requires assistance (an injury or a hazardous condition, such as a broken pipe running water on the floor) call:


If the problem is not urgent, write a note and include:

  • date;
  • room number;
  • location (In a chemical hood? which one?) and
  • nature of problem.

Give the note to your TA. He or she will see that it is given to the Lab Staff and reported for repair.


Why are there so many water faucets in the lab?
.....Several kinds of water are provided in the labs – each for distinctly different purposes. None of them is drinking water:

  • Industrial water is provided (hot & cold) to the main faucets to be used for general washing (soap should be provided as well). Do not drink or use this to wash food.

  • Deionized water (also called demineralized or DI water) is produced by a reverse-osmosis treatment system and is piped to lab sinks in non-metallic pipes. It is dispensed via spring-loaded valves to reduce waste. This water has a very low mineral content and is suitable to make most chemical solutions (check with your Instructor). Do not drink.

  • If distilled water is needed in your lab, it will be provided as well. Do not drink.

  • Domestic (drinking) water is provided to the eyewashes and emergency showers and to the sink-mounted drench hoses (where installed). This is the same water provided to rest rooms and drinking fountains (and to your home taps).

    sink-mounted drench hose

What is the extra shower hose at the lab sink?  

.....The item shown here is a drench hose. A sink-mounted drench hose is an extra emergency item – not a substitute for having a laboratory eyewash or emergency shower. Use the drench hose as a temporary measure to remove chemicals from eyes or skin.

Use the drench hose regularly to rinse the sink. Regular use flushes the water through the hose & removes contaminants from the nozzles. Use the flowing water to clean sink, rinse glassware, clean sponges, etc. Close covers when not in use.