Chemical or Biological Spills

General Guidelines

  1. Notify people in the area of the hazard.
  2. Evacuate the laboratory and close the door behind the spill and/or fire.
  3. Post a person outside the laboratory door to prevent anyone from entering the laboratory.
  4. For a small spill, follow the guidelines below.
  5. For a large spill or one that may threaten life and health, call 911 and indicate to the operator that a Hazardous Materials Response Unit is required.
  6. Be prepared to give the following information:
    • type of chemical or hazard
    • amount spilled
    • exact location of the spill (room number, building)
  7. Do not hang up until the operation releases you.
  8. Inform Supervisor or Department Head.
  9. Call the Chemical Hygiene Officer, Dave Finster at 6441 for assistance and so an accident report can be filled out.

Emergency Response to a Chemical Spill

Laboratories have kits and equipment cleaning up spills.

  1. A neutralizing agent. The spill control kits are clearly labeled as to which type of neutralizing agent should be used. The four types of spills are:
    • (1) acid; (2) caustic, or basic; (3) solvent; and (4) mercury
  2. Gloves, plastic bags, whisk broom, and dust pan are available.


  1. Do not attempt to clean up spills of highly toxic or dangerous materials unless you can do so without harming yourself and other people. In case of a spill of a highly toxic or dangerous material, evacuate the laboratory and shut the door. Call Emergency (911) for help with dangerous spills that may require self-contained breathing apparatus for cleanup. Inform people in adjacent laboratories and offices of the spill and to stay out of the area of the spill.
  2. Wear protective clothing when cleaning up a spill.
  3. Spills of acids and bases can be neutralized by the neutralizing agent in the spill control kits. The neutralizing agent should be poured around the perimeter of the spill and then poured inward to dike the spill. Thoroughly mix the slurry with the scoops provided. The caustic and acid neutralizers may bubble.
  4. Spills of volatile organic solvent should be covered with an adsorbent immediately to prevent fumes form igniting. Turn off room circuit breakers and any flames. Pour the solvent absorbent around the perimeter and inward to dike the spill. Mix the absorbent until it appears as a dry, free-running, non-adhering, granular material.
  5. Spills of toxic solids should be swept up and placed in a labelled plastic bag. The person or persons cleaning up the spill should make sure to wear personal protective equipment before attempting to clean up the spill.
  6. Once the spill has be neutralized or absorbed use the scoop provided to place the mixture in a plastic bag. Label the bag with the following information:
    • material spilled
    • date and time of the spill
    • person or persons who cleaned up the spill
  7. Give the labelled plastic bag containing the spill to the lab supervisor or Chemical Hygiene Officer for proper disposal.
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