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Laboratory Security

Laboratories need to take specific actions in order to provide security against theft of highly hazardous materials, valuable equipment, and to ensure compliance with government regulations.  Each unit (programme and research group) is encouraged to review and develop procedures to ensure the security of all hazardous materials in their area of responsibility.

Each laboratory implements their own means of security, i.e. locking up controlled substances, syringes and needles, and radioactive materials. It is Responsible Faculty Member’s responsibility to assess the risks of a chemical and take security measures accordingly. The main purpose here is to prevent theft of dangerous chemicals. The easiest way to increase the security is to make sure that lab door is locked when you leave the unattended.

The Responsible Faculty Member is advised to determine the precautions necessary for the particular laboratory, and the determined set of rules is to be followed by all users in this laboratory.

Security Guidelines

Security guidelines are to eliminate the risk of removal of any hazardous material from laboratory. These include:

  • Note that, although they are related, laboratory security is different from laboratory safety. The main purpose of lab security is to protect hazardous chemicals.
  • Access to the areas where hazardous chemicals are used and stored should be controlled and limited. Limitation may also include some off-hours or granting access only to lab users authorized by Responsible Faculty Member.
  • Freezers, refrigerators, storage cabinets, and other containers of biological agents, hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials should always be kept locked.
  • Hazardous materials should always be secured and never be left unattended. The most important precaution to this is to lock laboratory door when unattended.
  • Note:  If users work alone and use the buddy system with someone outside of the research group, allowing access for that individual will need to be addressed prior to the initiation of working alone.
  • Be aware of who is in the laboratory at all times. Approach anyone who you don't recognize and appears to be wandering in laboratory areas and hallways and ask if you can help direct them.
  • A log sheet system may be used to secure highly hazardous chemicals. A periodic inventory check of hazardous chemicals is strongly advised. Any missing chemical should be immediately reported to LSS.
  • Follow new chemicals ordering procedure; be aware of what new chemicals will be brought to your lab area. Packages of potentially infectious materials are only opened in biological cabinets.
  • Use emergency plan for reporting incidents. Be sure to include the lab's emergency contact information on located on or near your laboratory door.
  • Be aware of the classes of security risks of hazardous chemicals.  Laboratory users should be aware of the highly hazardous materials or other special materials of concern.  

Pay special attention to the following:

  • Common labs
  • Unrestricted access to toxic chemicals
  • Unlocked support rooms
  • Toxic gas security
  • Unsecured biological materials and waste
  • Access to controlled substances
  • Changes in chemical inventory
  • Storeroom security
  • Chemical waste collection areas
  • Unusual activities

Many of the laboratory supply catalogs carry information and products such as various locks, lock boxes, and other security devices for chemical storage in laboratories.  For more information, you can contact LS/LSS for assistance or consult with the Operational and Technical Services about security devices.



University of Cornell, Laboratory Safety Manual and Chemical Hygiene Plan, Chapter 4, Administrative Controls (2015, March). Retrieved from