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Small Spills


It is essential to safely and properly handle a spill. Individuals should prepare themselves for small spill control. They should:

  • Acquire sufficient quantities and types of spill control materials to contain any spills than can be reasonably anticipated.
    All HSC laboratories should have a spill kit!
  • Place spill control materials in a readily accessible location, close to the areas where chemicals are used or stored.
  • Make sure to have these items labeled and inform all personal in the laboratory on their location.
    Laboratory Workers (staff, students, and summer workers) shall have laboratory safety and small spill response training.

Steps for Cleanup

Laboratory personnel can clean up the majority of chemical spills that occur in the lab. If a hazardous material spill is less than one liter and has a hazard rating below 2 in all hazard categories, the following procedures should be followed. In the event of a larger or more hazardous spill - pull fire alarm, evacuate the building and call 9-911.

  • Immediately notify the lab supervisor and others in the area of the spill.
  • Restrict access and mark the area to prevent others from coming in contact with the spilled material. Depending on what
    type of chemical is spilled, it may be necessary to evacuate the lab until the material is effectively cleaned up.
  • Protect floor drains or other means for environmental release. Spill socks and absorbents may be placed around drains, as needed.
  • Appropriate absorbent will vary depending on the chemical class. Vermiculite can be used for acids, bases, and solvents as it is a multipurpose absorbent. Distribute the best absorbent over the entire spill area, working from the outside, circling to the center. This reduces the chance of splashing or spreading of the spilled chemical.
  • When the spilled material has been absorbed, use a brush and scoop (spark-resistant if flammable materials are involved) to place materials in an appropriate bag, which is housed in a secondary container (spill container, not regular trash). A chemical spill MUST NEVER BE MIXED with anything other than itself!
  • A spill may involve broken glass. Be careful not to get cut during the clean-up process. Use tongs to pick up the broken glass and place it in the hazardous waste bag or container.
  • Carefully place the secondary container in a hood or other properly ventilated area until the chemical waste can be collected. Label the container.
  • Once the spill is cleaned up, it is necessary to neutralize any remaining residues and decontaminate the area. This can be accomplished by using an acid or base neutralizer for corrosive chemicals or using warm, soapy water for other chemicals.
    NOTE: Water should never be used for chemicals that are water reactive. The materials used in cleaning up the residue must be placed in a bag/container and stored with the rest of the spill.
  • A Hazardous Chemical Disposal form will need to be filled out in order for it to be picked up. This form can be found here. Remember that chemical spills do not get disposed of with the everyday trash in the laboratory.
  • Formally, report all spills to your supervisor and/or the principal investigator.
  • Restock clean-up materials used.
  • Evaluate the reason for the spill and effectiveness of the response and clean-up. Take steps to prevent future incidents.
  • Notify the HSC Safety Office at 293-0952.