Skip to content →

Lab Safety

Policy Contacts

Melissa J. Lopes, J.D.
Senior Research Compliance Officer, Office of the Vice Provost for Research

What is Essential:

Harvard University is committed to:

  • Promoting and maintaining a safe and healthy environment for its faculty, staff, students and visitors.
  • Being a model of quality in safety and environmental practices as we are in our teaching and research.

Beyond mere compliance with safety standards and requirements, Harvard’s commitment is framed around encouraging and cultivating a culture of lab safety through communication and access to information and adequate resources.  A culture of safety is established when each individual accepts responsibility for the wellbeing of him/herself as well as those around them.  This includes the safe handling of hazardous materials, the appropriate use of PPE, and the protection of minors in labs. The use of appropriate PPE in the University’s research, teaching and conservation laboratories minimizes the risk of injury and illness. Further, Harvard is committed to fostering a safe environment for minors and preventing minors’ exposure to hazardous materials, laboratory pathogens, injurious accidents, and other inherent dangers that may be present in University laboratories.


How to Comply:

The Harvard University Laboratory Safety Policy developed by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research in consultation with EH&S and reviewed and approved by the University-wide Laboratory Safety Committee, establishes the basic University principles and the roles and responsibilities of disparate University units and constituents in promoting a culture of safety.

The Committee on Microbiological Safety (COMS). COMS is a standing faculty committee that reviews all research projects involving: Projects using these materials at institutions under COMS purview may not commence without COMS approval.

  • COMS Regulated material(s) or CRM are defined as:
  • Recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids as defined in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules (NIH Guidelines);
  • Human or nonhuman primate blood, cells, tissues, fluids, and secretions;
  • Biological toxins subject to the National Select Agent Registry Program; and
  • Bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and prions.

Projects using these materials at institutions under COMS purview may not commence without COMS approval.

The University Provost and Executive Vice President issued a Laboratory Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Policy in December 2011. To ensure the safety of lab members and staff, the Principal Investigator or his/her designee must ensure that PPE needs are regularly assessed, that all required PPE is readily available to researchers, and that all PPE is properly used in the laboratory. EH&S assists the Schools and laboratory personnel with the implementation of the policy.

The Minors in Labs policy establishes University-wide requirements regarding the presence of minors in University laboratories. In addition to this policy, all laboratories are also expected to comply with Harvard’s Policy for the Safety and Protection of Minors.

For more information please see the Harvard Environmental Health and Safety page.

Helpful Resources

Harvard University’s Environmental Health and Safety Department (EH&S) is responsible for ensuring University compliance with the laws and policies that apply to Harvard’s overall physical environment, including laboratory safety. The EH&S website provides a comprehensive overview of laboratory safety topics, including safety plans and manuals for the following topics:


The Office of the Vice Provost for Research (“OVPR”) convenes the university-wide Laboratory Safety Committee, a governing body primarily empowered to review and promulgate policies, rules and procedures for laboratory safety across the University and responsible for advising on all aspects of laboratory safety.  The Committee is comprised of faculty PIs and safety officers from across the University who are knowledgeable in laboratory science and/or safety.

Lab Safety Committee

Lab Safety Charter


Environmental Health & Safety Training

Harvard (Cambridge) Lab Safety Course

Provides information on the following topics: the Harvard University Chemical Hygiene Plan, Material Safety Data Sheets, Chemical Information Sheets, and Biosafety/Bloodborne Pathogens (only offered in MCB/OEB sessions). Participants will also learn how to correctly classify and store hazardous waste.

Longwood Lab Safety Training Materials and Handouts

Various training documents regarding areas of lab safety in the Longwood Medical Area.

Published in Uncategorized