Refrigerators and Freezers

The potential hazards posed by laboratory refrigerators and freezers include release of vapors from the contents, the possible presence of incompatible chemicals, and spillage. Only refrigerators that have been specified for laboratory use should be utilized to store chemicals.


General Purpose:

General laboratory refrigerators and freezers are domestic use units that are traditionally used to store food and beverages. While not usually suitable for a laboratory environment, they may be used for storing aqueous solutions. No flammable materials should be stored in these units. Food and drink are not allowed and the units should be labeled as such. 

Not for flammable materials storage


Flammable material refrigerators and freezers are designed for the storage of flammable solids and liquids. There is no internal switching or wiring that can arc, spark, or generate a source of ignition. The compressor and other circuits usually are located at the top of the unit to reduce the potential for ignition of flammable vapors. These refrigerators also incorporate features such as thresholds, self-closing doors, and magnetic door gaskets. Special inner shell materials limit damage should an exothermic reaction occur within the storage compartment. Be sure to observe flammable storage units, which should be listed on the label of the unit. 

Flammable material refrigerator label

Explosion Proof:

These units are designed to be operated in areas where the atmosphere outside of the unit could become explosive. These are not usually necessary in a typical laboratory setting. Please contact EHS if you feel the need for one of these units.

explosion proof refrigerator

Food and Drink:

Absolutely no food or drinks are allowed to be stored in laboratory refrigerators containing reagents, samples, and any other research materials.  All refrigerators and freezers must be labeled "No Food or Drink to be Stored in this Refrigerator".  Conversely, if food and drinks are stored in a unit near a laboratory, it must be labeled as "Refrigerator for Food Only".  Both of these labels are available from EHS by calling 8-5294 or using the Safety Supply Order Form (login required).

no food to be stored in this refrigerator
refrigerator for food only


Minus80 Monitoring is an environmental monitoring system used to monitor of critical refrigerator and freezer storage, incubators and other temperature sensitive equipment.  The system provides researchers with real-time access to cloud-based data accessible via web portal, mobile phone or tablet.  The system can deliver fully configurable alerts and alarms directly to multiple email, text, or telephone contacts.  

The system can monitor:

  • Internal (storage) temperature
  • Ambient temperature & humidity
  • Door open/close status (including frequency)
  • Unit power status

All monitored parameters are trended and available in real time. Please contact EHS for more information.

Safe Handling and Operating Procedures

  • Label all materials with the contents, owner, date of aquisition, and any associated hazards.  Readily identifiable coding to a reference document (laboratory notebook, posted inventory, etc.) may be used.
  • Follow all chemical compatibility storage guidelines.
  • All materials must be properly capped and sealed.  Avoid to use of foil or parafilm as a primary method for sealing the container.
  • Shelves must be compatible with the materials stored and secondary containment should be used when storing liquids.
  • Remember that power outages will cause a rise in termperature within the unit. This may lead to energetic decomposition.  Please keep this in mind and use emergency power outlets where available. 
  • Avoid using frost-free refrigerators and freezers.


Stanley Howell
Sr. Program Manager
Chemical Safety

Steve Elwood
Director for Research Safety