The past two decades have seen a rise in university laboratory accidents in China. Although there is a growing awareness due to higher reporting and media coverage, the evaluation and understanding of common hazards and deficiencies in university laboratories remains to be addressed. Aiming to enhance safety in laboratory-related activities, this study analyzed the current status and challenges of university laboratory safety in China and presented future directions to reduce accidents using engineering and administrative controls. A descriptive statistical analysis of 110 publicly reported university laboratory accidents in mainland China since 2000 was performed to investigate the proximate causes of the accidents, and further, to identify potential deficiencies existing in the current safety management of laboratories. It was found that human factors were the most contributing cause and the training element was a vulnerable competency in laboratory safety management. Based on the results, a comparative analysis between the underlying reasons for the poor safety situation and the efforts that have been made has brought the challenges and possible solutions for safety improvements in university laboratories. By suggesting top-down and bottom-up approaches, the present study provides valuable insights and serves as a reference for universities and relevant authorities to enhance safety in university laboratories.