Working Alone in Research Labs

Working alone, especially after hours, can be unsafe and should be avoided whenever possible. When it cannot be avoided, procedures to protect lab workers in the event of an emergency situation must be used. The Principal Investigator (PI) has the responsibility to ensure the safety of all lab workers in their laboratory, and after conducting a hazard review, can approve laboratory staff to work alone. Guidance is provided to develop a lab specific safety protocol for working alone. This policy applies to all work with hazardous materials (chemical, biological or radiological material) or hazardous equipment in research laboratories at Stony Brook University.

The requirements are:

High School Students: Never permitted to work alone in a research lab, even with non-hazardous materials. They must always have a mentor/supervisor present. Review the Minors in Research Labs policy for additional information, including the requirements for "Qualified Supervisor".

Undergraduate Students: Never permitted to work alone with hazardous materials or equipment. Someone else with EH&S required safety training must be in the lab or adjacent to the lab and be able to check on their safety.

Graduate Students, Postdoctoral Fellows, Research Scientists, Technicians and Principal Investigators: These are considered full time laboratory workers, and laboratory training is integral to their professional training. They are permitted to work alone in a research laboratory after approval by the PI and following the lab's safety protocol for working alone.

Clinical Students, including Medical Students, Residents and Clinical Fellows: Since their laboratory training is only a portion of their professional training and work intermittently in a research lab and have minimal laboratory experience, are not permitted to work alone in a research lab with hazardous materials. They must use the "buddy system". Lab workers in this category, who have previous laboratory experience or where the non-clinical education is the primary laboratory training and experience, are permitted to work alone in a research laboratory after approval by the PI and following the lab's safety protocol for working alone.

The PI can use this form to document their approval for someone to work alone in the lab: Laboratory Specific Working Alone Protocol Approval

Review the EH&S Policy Working Alone in Research Labs