Working Safely with Dry Ice


EH&S has published a new guidance sheet focused on working safely with dry ice. This useful resource reviews the hazards and appropriate precautions that should be used with dry ice, commonly used for the shipment of specimens and during power outages.

Handle Dry Ice Safely

The Working Safely with Dry Ice Focus Sheet was created specifically for the UW research community following the two incidents involving improperly packaged research specimens. One incident resulted in an injury to a UW employee that could have been avoided if precautions had been taken. For more information on recent UW safety-related incidents, please visit the online digest provided by the Lab Safety Initiative.

Key points for working safely with dry ice include:

  • Dry ice’s primary hazards are its extreme cold temperature (-109 °F) and its rapid emission of carbon dioxide gas. The latter can pressurize sealed containers quickly, causing them to explode.
  • Dry ice should always be handled with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) including goggles or face shield, lab coat, and loose-fitting thermally-insulated gloves. Never handle dry ice with bare hands.
  • Dry ice should always be stored in a well-ventilated area and never in a tightly sealed container.
  • If you see or receive a container that is swollen, bulging, or that you believe may be improperly packaged dry ice, secure the area and call 911. Do not try to release pressure in the container.
  • If you ship dry ice, be sure to complete the online EH&S training course Shipping Dry Ice with Non-Dangerous Goods or Exempt Patient Specimens and adhere to the requirements for proper packaging and shipping.
  • Receive training and know the hazards and safe work practices before handling dry ice.

If you work with, or around dry ice, or send and receive shipments with dry ice, please review the Working Safely with Dry Ice Focus Sheet. Feel free to post this in your work area and/or share with your peers and colleagues.

For questions about working with dry ice, contact EH&S at 206.543.7262.