Hazardous Materials Overview

General Storage and Use

Materials that are extremely hazardous to property, health or the environment (highly toxic gas, explosive, highly water reactive, and pyrophoric materials for example) must not be procured until the necessary permits, administrative, engineering, and environmental controls are in place.

Hazardous materials must be stored and used in accordance with numerous regulations including, but not limited to, the International Fire Code and local amendments.

For laboratories, refer to your Chemical Hygiene Plan for standard operating procedures. If you are interested in the disposal of hazardous materials please see our information concerning waste. If you're looking for some general information about frequently used hazardous chemicals please see our information concerning chemicals.


A Fire Department permit is required to store and use hazardous materials in University buildings. Permits may be obtained directly from the Seattle Fire Department (leaves EH&S Web site), or other appropriate local authority, through application to the Fire Marshal's Office Permit Section, or call 206.386.1450, or other appropriate local authority. (see here for more information). Departments are responsible for permit fees.

Permits are required for any quantity of highly hazardous material, and for small to moderate quantities of other materials. (For example, a permit is required for any quantity of highly toxic or unstable material, and for flammable liquids in quantities in excess of five gallons in a building). Contact the Fire Department directly or EH&S Building and Fire Safety at (206) 543-0465 for assistance.


Hazardous Material Signage

National Fire Protection Association warning sign

Rooms where hazardous materials are stored or used in quantities that exceed certain thresholds, and rooms dedicated to storing hazardous materials are required to have a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) diamond sign on all doors. Most laboratories on the Seattle campus can print their own signs directly from their MyChem inventory. For information regarding lab signs visit www.ehs.washington.edu/fsohazmat/labsign. Call EH&S Building and Fire Safety at (206) 543-0465 for further information.



Inventories are necessary to verify that aggregate materials quantities within buildings are in compliance with the International Fire Code (IFC). They are also necessary for Fire Department hazardous material permits and for EH&S to produce required University Community Right-to Know reports. Departments maintain hazardous material inventories and after-hours emergency phone numbers in MyChem. Primary investigators and other faculty and staff using hazardous materials must be prepared to provide assistance to emergency services in the event of a hazardous spill, fire or other emergency.


Brief Fire Code and Hazardous Material Overview

Flammable Liquids: The quantity of flammable liquids in a single laboratory stored outside of an approved flammable liquids cabinet must not exceed 10 gallons. All 10 gallons, unless in use, must be stored in approved containers


Peroxide Forming Chemicals: Peroxides may form in some organic compounds by autoxidation. Peroxides can cause serious accidents and, in some circumstances, become low power explosives that can be set off by shock, sparks or other forms of ignition. Some organic compounds form peroxides in a matter of months under the right circumstance. Be aware of organic compounds in your lab and remember to mark the expiration date on each container and review them periodically for disposal. Ether is an example of a peroxide forming chemical. Click here obtain a Peroxide Forming Compounds Assessment Guideline (PDF). For technical support, contact Chemical Waste at (206) 616-5835.

Pyrophoric Material: Pyrophoric material is a material that will spontaneously ignite when it comes into contact with air. This material is only permitted in fire sprinkler protected laboratories in very small quantities (4 pounds aggregate per zone). Potassium metal is an example of a pyrophoric material. Extreme precaution is required when working with this type of material.

[Zones are defined by the buildings design and the building codes. In some cases an entire floor or multiple floors are considered one zone.]

Highly Toxic Material: Materials classified as highly toxic are only permitted in small quantities in University buildings (Up to 10 pounds per zone). Highly toxic gas, like Arsine, is not allowed in any quantity without engineering controls and a special permit from the Seattle Fire Department.

Incompatible Materials: Incompatible materials are materials which, when in contact with each other, have the potential to react in a manner that generate heat, fumes, gases, or byproducts which are hazardous. For quantities of greater than 5 pounds or 1/2 gallon, separation by not less than 20 feet, approved cabinets, or a noncombustible partition is required. Smaller quantities should also be isolated whenever practical. A common violation is flammable liquids stored with oxidizers.

Flammable Liquids and Basements: The International Fire Code prohibits storage of flammable liquids in basements. However, there are two general exceptions as follows that apply to the University of Washington:

Existing grandfathered Class H Occupancy rooms (i.e., chemical stockrooms design specifically for bulk storage of flammable liquids). New Class H occupancy rooms for flammable liquids are not allowed in basements.

Laboratories conforming to Seattle Fire Departmentís (SFD) Administrative Rule 34.03.04 (leaves EH&S Web site), "Flammable Liquid Storage and Use in Basement Level Laboratories." This rule is retroactive and applies to all laboratories but some of the engineering controls may be waived if quantities are kept below 5 gallons within an individual laboratory. All administrative requirements must be met.

Contact EH&S Building and Fire Safety at (206) 543-0465 for assistance in assessing requirements and obtaining SFD permits for storage and use of flammable liquids in basements.