A Safety Guide for Lab Packing

A Safety Guide for Lab Packing

Lab packing is a vital process for many industries. From hospitals to schools, the proper identification, organization, and disposal of chemical materials is not a task to take lightly. Without the proper organization and containment for these materials, leaks could spring within barrels, creating chemical reactions that jeopardize the safety of employees and anyone else who may encounter the hazardous chemicals.

However, there is no reason to think that lab packing is an especially dangerous or insurmountable challenge. With the proper training and attention to detail, one can complete lab packs without much trouble at all. Every day, people successfully identify, separate, transport, and house or destroy hazardous waste. There is no reason to think that you cannot do the same. To help you along the way, perhaps a safety guide for lab packing would be helpful.

What Is Lab Packing

Institutions as disparate as universities and manufacturing facilities collect so much hazardous waste over time that, eventually, they must find a method to dispose of it—and this is where lab packing comes in. A lab pack is the accumulation of different hazardous materials safely re-packaged in lab pack disposal containers. Working alongside a waste disposal company, businesses can prepare the lab pack materials and then hand off the hazardous waste to the professionals, who will dispose of the hazards at a waste treatment facility.

The standard methodology for lab packing is to fit several smaller, intact containers within a 55-gallon drum. You must securely pack, sort, and pad the small containers to ensure the safe transport of chemical waste. It is important to fill individual drums with chemicals that will not create adverse reactions if they mix.

Although the chemicals are separate within the drum, you want to make sure a leak from one or more containers will not cause a dangerous reaction. You can mix some chemicals when you add them to the drums for space reasons, but these must be safe combinations that will not cause physical harm.

Government Regulations

Through the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RCRA) and Land Disposal Restrictions (LDR) program, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has laid out the regulations for how to manage lab pack services. The regulations prohibit anyone from discarding hazardous chemicals down the drain or throwing them out in the trash. The government also insists that a licensed chemist oversee the combination of chemicals to minimize the risk of a volatile eruption.

Other government agencies, like the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), also have a set of regulations for the handling, transporting, and treatment of lab pack chemicals. All these regulations serve to limit the chances of exposing workers or the general public to hazards. Complying with these regulations is absolutely vital for a successful lab packing process.


The first step in a safe, efficient lab pack process is identification. A qualified staff member should be responsible for creating an inventory of all the damaged, out-of-date, or expired chemicals that you’ll need to dispose of. Since you’re trying to maximize safety, the identification process should be incredibly detailed, outlining exactly what will go into the lab pack and how everything will be organized. The identification step must take place before you dispose of any of the chemicals you no longer need.

Separate Substances

With a licensed chemist overseeing the combination or separation of the different chemicals, you’ll fill containers as small as vials with hazardous materials and pack them within larger containers. Pack flammable materials with other flammable materials, corrosive items with other corrosive items, and so on.

Coding System for Hazardous Waste

If you want to follow a safety guide for lab packing effectively, pay extra attention to how the RCRA sets the standard for properly identifying hazardous waste. The Act includes a standardized coding system for the industry. With this system, everyone managing the waste, from the handlers to the transporters, knows exactly what they are dealing with. Examples of the coding system include:

  • D001 signals flammable liquids.
  • D002 signals materials that one might consider corrosive.
  • D003 signals reactive materials.

Why It Is Important To Separate and Code Waste

It is vitally important to the safety of anyone in contact with the barrels that you’ve properly identified, separated, and labeled all the containers in the lab pack. If one or more of the small containers were to spring a leak and cause a chemical reaction, it could cause serious problems for people nearby. Chemical burns or poisonings are just some of the possible outcomes of such mistakes.

Some people add an absorbent material to the inside of a drum with small vials of chemicals. In the case of a leak or a break, the absorbent material will offer extra protection.

Where Lab Packs Go

A lab packing service’s responsibility is to move the waste safely to a designated location based on local regulations. Every container’s design caters to a specific land disposal restriction (LDR) treatment standard, such as stabilization or neutralization, adding complexity to the process. To avoid complications, the EPA also often offers an alternative treatment standard that allows for the incineration of the entire lab pack.

Why Waste Is Always the Company’s Responsibility

After they’ve handed the drums over to professionals, it can be easy for the people who created the waste to assume that their responsibilities are over. However, according to RCRA law, waste generators are responsible for the handling of waste from the cradle to the grave. As such, you could be held liable for any mistakes on the part of your waste management company.

Consequently, people who create waste must do their due diligence when determining a disposal partner. Nobody wants to face repercussions for issues that seem completely out of their control.


Lab packing involves more than a few steps to complete successfully. The sorting, organizing, labeling, and shipping can be overwhelming, especially when you’re focusing so much of your attention on the safety and security of the people involved. Lab packing requires a Herculean effort to protect yourself, your business, your employees, and your planet.

However, if you prefer to leave most of the difficult work to the professionals, Clean Management offers a job turnkey. We’ll come right on site and identify, segregate, pack, transport, and dispose of your waste without your involvement.

A Safety Guide for Lab Packing

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