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Oregon State University

Benzene

Safety Instruction Number: 
24
Last Update: 
Tue, 09/04/2007

General

  • Benzene is a chemical with a specific OSHA regulation
  • OSU Chemical Safety Committee has classified the chemical benzene as a High hazard carcinogen
  • Use of this chemical must be registered and controlled

Characteristics

  • Benzene is a clear, sweet-smelling, highly flammable liquid
  • It is also known as benzol, benzole, coal naphtha, cyclohexatriene, phene, phenyl hydride, and pyrobenzol
  • Benzene is harmful if it is inhaled, absorbed through the skin or swallowed
  • Although benzene is carcinogenic, it can be used with little risk to health if used properly

Use Registration

Monitoring

  • Whenever benzene is used outside an approved laboratory fume hood, EH&S should be contacted to perform air sampling
  • The permissible exposure level (PEL) for benzene is 1 ppm averaged over an 8-hour workday
  • Additional precautions must be taken if benzene levels exceed the PEL
  • Users may monitor their own benzene exposure after consulting with EH&S
  • Results of benzene monitoring must be documented, including:
    • dates, number, and results of testing;
    • methods used in testing and taking air samples;
    • description of the type of any respirators worn;
    • names and social security numbers of the people exposed
  • Monitoring documentation must be kept on file for at least 30 years
  • Department responsible for using the benzene must show the written results of all benzene testing to all affected workers
  • Notification must be made within 15 working days after receiving the results and must include actions to reduce the benzene level if the PEL has been exceeded
  • All employees who work with benzene has the right to observe the testing procedures

Training

  • Before workers use benzene, they must be given information and training about how to use the chemical safely
  • Reviewing and understanding this Safety Instruction will meet the minimum benzene training requirement
  • Additional information about benzene is available from EH&S and other sources

Health Hazards of Benzene

  • Short-term exposure to benzene, well above the levels where it can be smelled can cause breathless, irritable, euphoric, or giddy feelings
  • Throat, eyes, and nose may become irritated
  • Symptoms include feeling dizzy, nauseated, intoxicated, or a headache
  • Severe exposure can cause unconsciousnees or convulsions


  • Long-term exposure, even at very low concentrations, may cause incurable, fatal blood disorders such as anemia or leukemia.
  • Many of these disorders associated with benzene develop without early symptoms. 

Protective Clothing and Equipment

  • Respirators are required where laboratory fume hoods or other local exhaust systems cannot be used
  • Respirators must be approved for use with benzene and properly fitted and cartridges must be replaced before their service life ends
  • Wearers must be trained in use and understand limitations before using any respirator.
  • Respirator use is further described in Safety Instruction # 20
  • Never enter an area without proper safety equipment if the area may have benzene concentrations that are too high

  • Protective clothing should be worn to prevent skin contact if working with benzene
  • Use boots, gloves, sleeves, aprons, etc. over any part of the body that might contact liquid benzene


  • Eye and Face protection should be worn to prevent benzene from being splashed into eyes
  • Gear includes safety glasses, splash-proof safety goggles, or a face shield

Emergency and First Aid Procedures

  • Splashed in eyes
    • wash out immediately with large amounts of water
    • if eyes remain irritated or vision becomes blurry, see a doctor as soon as possible
  • Spilled on body
    • take off the contaminated clothing
    • thoroughly wash the contacted skin with soap and water immediately
    • wash contaminated clothes before wearing them again
  • Inhaled large amounts
    • quickly get the exposed person to fresh air quickly
    • apply artificial respiration if the person has stopped breathing
    • call for medical assistance
  • Swallowed
    • do not induce vomiting
    • call for medical assistance

Precautions for Safe Use, Handling, and Storage

  • Benzene is highly flammable
  • Store in tightly closed containers in a cool, well-ventilated area away from sparks or flames
  • Transfer of benzene from one container to another must be done in welle ventilated area
  • Transfer only with grounded, non-sparking equipment
  • Benzene vapors are heavier than air so vapors may travel along the ground and ignite somewhere away from where it is being handled
  • Fire extinguishers must be readily available

Signs and Labels

  • Warning signs must be posted at entranced to areas where exposure to benzene might reasonably be expected to exceed the PEL
  • Signs must contain the following wording: 

DANGER
BENZENE
CANCER HAZARD
FLAMMABLE--NO SMOKING
AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY
RESPIRATOR REQUIRED 

  • All benzene containers must be labeled with: 

DANGER
BENZENE
FLAMMABLE
INHALATION & CANCER HAZARD

Spill and Disposal Procedure

  • Contact EH&S for assistance in dealing with all benzene spills of more than 500 ml
  • Small spills should be immediately cleaned up using an appropriate absorbent
  • Waste material should be contained and disposed of through the hazardous waste disposal program
  • Benzene must not be poured down the sewer system. 

Medical Surveillance

  • A medical surveillance program must be established for those people who work regularly with benzene at or above the PEL
  • Contact EH&S for the specific benzene levels and program procedures

Additional Information

  • Contact EH&S for more information regarding safe handling procedures or copies of the state safety regulations on benzene