Lab Safety Emergency Chemical Spill Procedures


The range and quantity of hazardous substances used in laboratories requires preplanning to respond safely to chemical spills. The cleanup of a chemical spill should only be done by knowledgeable and experienced personnel. Spill kits with instructions, adsorbents, reactants, and protective equipment should be available to clean up minor spills. A minor spill is one that does not spread rapidly, does not endanger people or property except by direct contact, does not endanger the environment, and the laboratory staff is capable of handling safely without the assistance of safety and emergency personnel. All other chemical spills are considered major and EHSO must be notified at x68660 (24-Hour #: x66911). In the event of a minor spill the following procedures shall be carried out:

    • Attend to anyone who may have been contaminated or hurt.


    • Ensure that the fume hood(s) is on. Open windows where possible to increase exhaust ventilation and if the spilled material is flammable, turn off all ignition and heat sources.


    • Secure cleanup supplies. Neutralize acids and bases, if possible. Ensure protective apparel is resistant to the spill material.


    • Control the spread of the liquid by containing the spill.


    • Absorb the liquid by adding appropriate absorbent materials from the spill’s outer edges toward the center.


    • Collect and contain the cleanup residues by scooping it into a plastic bucket or other appropriate container.


    • Properly dispose of the waste as hazardous waste.


    • Decontaminate the area and affected equipment. Ventilating the spill area may be necessary.


    • Document what happened, why, what was done, and what was learned. Such documentation can be used to avoid similar instances in the future. Major incidents are almost always preceded by numerous near misses.


In any event, there should be supplies and equipment on hand to deal with the spill, consistent with the hazards and quantities of the spilled substance. These cleanup supplies should include neutralizing agents (such as sodium carbonate and sodium bisulfate) and absorbants (such as vermiculite and sand). Paper towels and sponges may also be used as absorbent-type cleanup aids, although this should be done cautiously. For example, paper towels used to clean up a spilled oxidizer may later ignite, and appropriate gloves should be worn when wiping up highly toxic material with paper towels. Also, when a spilled flammable solvent is absorbed in vermiculite or sand, the resultant solid is highly flammable and gives off flammable vapors and, thus, must be properly contained or removed to a safe place. If you have questions regarding spill clean up requirements please contact EHSO at x68660 or x63201. In the event of a major spill the following procedures shall be carried out:

    • Attend to anyone who may be hurt or contaminated if it can be accomplished without endangering yourself.


    • If flammable materials are spilled, de-energize electrical devices if can be done without endangering yourself.


  • Call Campus Security at x66911.