Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) issued a Hazard Alert to inform businesses about the dangers and safety precautions associated with the use, transport, and storage of dry ice and liquid nitrogen. University units involved with COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts and research groups should take all necessary precautions when working with dry ice and liquid nitrogen.
Dry ice and liquid nitrogen pose serious risks to workers that can lead to injuries and death. Both dry ice and liquid nitrogen are cold enough to cause burns. Other hazards include suffocation in enclosed environments and explosion as pressure can build when kept in a non-vented container.
Follow these precautions when working with dry ice and liquid nitrogen:
- Conduct a risk assessment.
- Ensure adequate ventilation.
- When oxygen detection and alarms systems are required, maintain equipment and train personnel on emergency response.
- Do not store dry ice in airtight or sealed containers.
- Store liquid nitrogen only in insulated and vented containers (e.g., Dewar flask).
- Establish written safety procedures.
- Store unused dry ice in a well-ventilated area.
- Include dry ice and liquid nitrogen in your Hazard Communication program.
- Provide training to workers on hazards and safety procedures.
- Instruct supervisors and others to recognize signs or symptoms of hypoxia.
- Provide protective gear to prevent cold burns and frostbite.
- Post warning signs around equipment and/or entrances to spaces where dry ice or liquid nitrogen is stored or used.
The Working Safely with Dry Ice Focus Sheet was created specifically for the UW research community following two incidents involving improperly packaged research specimens.
If you see or receive a container that is swollen, bulging, or that you believe may be improperly packaged dry ice, secure the area and call 9-1-1. Do not try to release pressure in the container.
If you ship dry ice, be sure to complete the online EH&S training course Shipping Dry Ice with Non-Dangerous Goods or Exempt Patient Specimens and adhere to the requirements for proper packaging and shipping.
Contact EH&S at 206.543.7262 for questions and consultation about working safely with dry ice.