8.C.4 General Safe Operating Procedures for Fume Hoods

In addition to protecting the laboratory worker from toxic or unpleasant agents used in them, fume hoods can provide an effective containment device for accidental spills of chemicals. There should be at least one hood for every two workers in laboratories where most work involves hazardous chemicals, and the hoods should be large enough to provide each worker with at least 2.5 linear feet of working space at the face. If this amount of hood space is not available, other types of local ventilation should be provided, and special care should be exercised to monitor and restrict the use of hazardous substances.

8.C.4.1 Prevention of Intentional Release of Hazardous Substances Into Fume Hoods

Fume hoods should be regarded as backup safety devices that can contain and exhaust toxic, offensive, or flammable materials when the containment of an experiment or procedure fails and vapors or dusts escape from the apparatus being used. Note the following:

  • Just as you should never flush a laboratory waste down the drain, never intentionally send waste up the hood.

  • Instead, fit all apparatus used in hoods with condensers, traps, or scrubbers to contain and collect waste solvents or toxic vapors or dusts.


Many factors can compromise the efficiency of a hood operation. Most of these are avoidable; thus, it is important to be aware of all behavior that can, in some way, modify the hood and its capabilities. The following should always be considered when using a hood:

  • Keep fume hood exhaust fans on at all times.

  • If possible, position the fume hood sash so that work is performed by extending the arms under or around the sash, placing the head in front of the sash, and keeping the glass between the worker and the chemical source. The worker views the procedure through the glass, which will act as a primary barrier if a spill, splash, or explosion should occur.

  • Avoid opening and closing the fume hood sash rapidly, and avoid swift arm and body movements in front of or inside the hood. These actions may increase turbulence and reduce the effectiveness of fume hood containment.

  • Place chemical sources and apparatus at least 6 inches behind the face of the hood. In some laboratories, a colored stripe is painted on, or tape applied to, the hood work surface 6 inches back from the face to serve as a reminder. Quantitative fume hood containment tests reveal that the concentration of contaminant in the breathing zone can be 300 times higher from a source located at the front of the hood face than from a source placed at least 6 inches back. This concentration declines further as the source is moved farther toward the back of the hood.

  • Place equipment as far to the back of the hood as practical without blocking the bottom baffle.

  • Separate and elevate each instrument by using blocks or racks so that air can flow easily around all apparatus.

  • Do not use large pieces of equipment in a hood, because they tend to cause dead spaces in the airflow and reduce the efficiency of the hood.

  • If a large piece of equipment emits fumes or heat outside a fume hood, then have a special-purpose hood designed and installed to ventilate that particular device. This method of ventilation is much more efficient than placing the equipment in a fume hood, and it will consume much less air.

  • Do not modify fume hoods in any way that adversely affects the hood performance. This includes adding, removing, or changing any of the fume hood components, such as baffles, sashes, airfoils, liners, and exhaust connections.

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