See the Laboratory Security section of the Employee Safety Handbook for lab safety tips. Report hazardous material spills or leaks to the Office for Research Safety.

Volunteer and Visitor Lab Use

As a leading research university, Northwestern University enjoys various kinds of resources to which persons who are not members of the University community seek access. Insofar as possible, and consistent with the University's primary responsibility to its students, faculty, and staff, the University makes such resources available to qualified members of the local community (many of whom, such as students from other institutions, serve as volunteers or interns in University facilities) as well as researchers from the larger national and international academic communities.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act employers must pay employees for all work that is being performed. There is an exemption from the pay requirement for interns that involve several factors. The factors include:

  • That the training, even though it includes actual operations of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training that would be given in a vocational school or academic credit is being given for the training
  • That the training is for the benefit of the individual
  • That the individual does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision
  • That the employer does not derive immediate advantages from the activities of the individual
  • That the individual is not necessarily entitled to a job at the end of the training period, and
  • That the employer and the individual understand that the individual is not entitled to wages for the time spent training

If all factors are met, the individual will be considered an intern and not an employee under the Department of Labor's standards, which may change from time to time.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act employers must pay employees for all work that is being performed. There is an exemption from the pay requirement for volunteers at a nonprofit institution. The factors include:

  • The nature of the entity that receives the services
  • The receipt by the individual (or expectation thereof) of any benefits from those for whom the services are performed
  • Whether the activity is less than a full-time occupation
  • Whether regular employees are displaced
  • Whether the services are offered freely without pressure or coercion, and
  • Whether the services are of the kind typically associated with volunteer work

The agreement covers situations in which persons who are not formally associated with the University visit Northwestern laboratories and/or participate in activities there. Volunteers and visitors are defined as persons who have no formal affiliation with the University such as formal faculty, staff, research, or visiting scholar appointments or who are not enrolled in a formal degree or non-degree program sponsored by the University. Non-degree programs include the National High School Institute, the Center for Talent Development and the College Preparatory Program.

The agreement form must be completed before a volunteer or visitor has access to laboratory facilities and equipment. The department should retain the original and email one copy to

Lab Injury Protocol

Hang this up in your lab for a quick reference guide on what to do if someone gets injured.