Laboratory Supervisor Policy

Policy Approval Authority President
Responsible Division Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships
Responsible Officer(s) Director of the Office of Research, Compliance, Integrity and Safety
Contact Person Shannon Stoker
Primary Audience Faculty
Status Active
Last Review Date 04-01-2023
Policy Category/Categories Research Ethics / Intellectual Property


Laboratory activities must be conducted under the supervision of a designated laboratory supervisor, safely and in compliance with university policies.

Responsible Office

Office of Research Compliance, Integrity and Safety (ORCIS)


This policy applies to the supervision of laboratories, chemical stockrooms, and storerooms maintained by Northern Illinois University with biological, chemical, radiological, or physical hazards present. These include teaching and research laboratories, and service laboratories that provide testing, diagnostic, measurement, or other laboratory services.


Consistent with the NIU Health and Safety Policy, the university strives to establish an effective laboratory safety program that will minimize risks. Inherent in this duty is supervision of laboratory personnel to ensure safety procedures are followed. Federal research sponsors have safety requirements as a condition of funding, highlighting the fact that laboratory safety is an essential component of, and complement to, the teaching and research mission of the university.

Laboratory safety is everyone's responsibility. As outlined in the NIU Health and Safety Policy, laboratory safety supervision is delegated through the academic administrative line from the President to the Provost and vice presidents, to deans, department chairs, directors and ultimately to faculty and staff directly responsible for teaching and research laboratory activities.

For teaching activities in laboratories, the instructor in charge of the course is responsible for supervision of laboratory safety of that course, and for research activities in laboratories the Principal Investigator is responsible for the supervision of laboratory safety. Although specific duties associated with supervision of laboratory safety may be delegated to qualified and trained students and staff, the responsibility cannot be delegated.

Laboratory personnel who have been trained and are otherwise qualified are responsible for working safely in accordance with procedures and guidelines established by the university, academic department or program, and specific laboratory.

In consultation with ORCIS, laboratory supervisors must ensure and document sufficient training such that laboratory workers under their direction understand the hazards that they are exposed to and know how to work safely and in compliance with laboratory safety regulations.

The Office of Research Compliance, Integrity and Safety provides general laboratory safety training and is available to assist laboratory supervisors. The laboratory supervisor is responsible for identifying laboratory-specific training. This training can be developed and implemented in consultation with ORCIS. The laboratory supervisor also has the responsibility for ensuring the implementation of training.

Reference Regulations and Policies

  • NIU Health and Safety Policy
  • NIH/CDC, Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories
  • NIH, NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules
  • 29 CFR 1910, OSHA Regulations
  • University of Nevada Reno, Laboratory Supervisor Safety Policy


Laboratory Supervisor

The person who has been assigned responsibility for a particular laboratory space or activity. Principal investigators (PIs) assume this responsibility for laboratory space assigned to them for research activities. Designated course instructors assume this responsibility for academic laboratory courses

Laboratory Personnel

Students, employees or volunteers who work in, or receive training in, a laboratory space or activity for which a lab supervisor has responsibility.


Deans or Delegates

Responsible for assigning laboratory space. Leadership will apportion shared space to determine assignment of responsibilities in line with this policy and safety regulations. This may be delegated at the dean's discretion. Leadership must ensure that those assigned responsibilities have the authority and resources to ensure laboratories are safe environments.

Department Chairs and Directors

Ensure that the staff, instructors, faculty, PIs, students, volunteers, visiting scholars and other individuals under their direction are aware of the responsibilities and procedures contained in this policy. For shared laboratory space (such as teaching laboratories, core laboratory facilities, or instrument rooms), assign a faculty or staff member responsibility for that room or portion of the room.

Laboratory Supervisor

Ensure that laboratory safety policies are implemented in laboratories for which they are responsible.

The health and safety responsibilities of laboratory supervisors include the following:

  • Ensure that laboratory personnel under their supervision receive documented training on the specific health and safety hazards to which they are exposed. Requirements for documentation will be provided by ORCIS.
  • Develop written standard operating procedures (SOPs) that address biological, chemical, radiological and physical hazards associated with the specific laboratory operations for which the laboratory supervisor is responsible. The supervisor may utilize the library of SOPs maintained by ORCIS or work with ORCIS to develop new or laboratory-specific SOPs.
  • Upon request from authorized personnel, communicate information regarding hazards and necessary safe work practices to first responders, authorized laboratory visitors, including other laboratory personnel and maintenance workers, custodians, and vendors.
  • Supervise laboratory personnel.
  • In the event of an extended absence, the laboratory supervisor should arrange for a qualified individual to provide supervision of laboratory operations (generally this will be another qualified faculty member or an experienced member of the research group).
  • When encountered, submit work orders and report deficiencies in facility-maintained safety equipment, including laboratory fume hoods, safety showers and eyewashes, and fire extinguishers to ORCIS for remediation. Regular checks will be performed on safety equipment by appropriate offices (ORCIS, Environmental Health and Safety, facilities, etc.).
  • Promote environmental stewardship by maintaining compliance with environmental regulations, including minimization and proper management of hazardous wastes, reduction of laboratory water and air effluents, and prudent management of hazardous materials inventories. ORCIS and/or Environmental Health and Safety will provide this guidance.
  • Be proactive in identifying and informing ORCIS of laboratory safety deficiencies and ensure remediation and empower staff to do the same.
  • Ensure that laboratory-related injuries and illnesses are reported to the OCRIS, and the responsible department chair, and the necessary forms are filed according to current policy.
  • Request additional resources in order to best supervise laboratory safety. These requests can be made to the department, college, and ORCIS. All reasonable requests will be accommodated to ensure a safe environment in the laboratories.

Laboratory Personnel

  1. Obtain appropriate lab safety training and conduct laboratory work safely in accordance with the relevant safety and health policies.
  2. Stop work immediately, and promptly report to the laboratory supervisor any unsafe conditions, identified deficiencies in laboratory safety equipment, observed or reported unsafe behaviors, practices, or procedures.
  3. Promptly report laboratory-related injuries and illnesses to the laboratory supervisor and fill out the laboratory accident reporting form.

Approved by the Laboratory Safety Committee in April 2023

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