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Chemical Spill Procedures

The amount and hazard of the chemicals involved will determine the appropriate response to a chemical spill. See the UVM LabRat for help identifying the factors involved in assessing various chemical spill scenarios.

Contact Police Services at 911 if immediate assistance is needed. If immediate assistance is not required, but there is any doubt about the laboratory worker's ability to safely clean up the spill, page Risk Management & Safety staff through Service Operations at 6-2560 for assistance. Note that our response depends upon knowledge of the hazards present at the spill, so provide us with as much information as possible when you call.

Minor Chemical Spill

A minor chemical spill is when:

  • Less than 1 liters of chemical are spilled.
  • The chemical spill has a low to moderate hazard.
  • No one has been exposed to the chemical.
  • Laboratory workers have sufficient equipment and training to properly clean up the spill.

1. Protect Yourself and Alert Others

  • Avoid direct contact with the spilled material.
  • Wear a laboratory coat or other protective clothing, eye or face protection and protective gloves during clean up.
  • Treat all chemicals as if they are hazardous materials.

2. Contain the Spill and Secure the Area

  • Cordon off the spill area. Use the chemical spill sign (available here in PDF format) in the UVM spill kit to alert people to the spill.
  • Do not walk through, or allow others to walk through, the spilled material.

3. Clean Up the Spill

  • Using the UVM Chemical Spill Kit, follow these directions to absorb the spill.
  • If the absorbent is the Encapsall powder, carefully encircle the spill and then sweep it through the puddle. After 5 minutes, sweep up absorbent materials and place them into a chemically compatible disposal container. Do not use the powder spill kit for Hydrofluoric Acid or Mercury.
  • If the absorbent is an Universal pad, cover the puddle carefully and let the pad absorb the chemical for 5 minutes. Note that these pads CAN collect Hydrofluoric Acid, but not Mercury.
  • REMEMBER that neither absorbent neutralizes the hazard of the spilled chemical. Therefore, the same protective equipment must be used when collecting the absorbent as when handling the chemical!
  • Use forceps or other tools to pick up the absorbent material. Picking material up with your hands increases the likelihood of exposing yourself to the material.

4. Dispose of the Material through the Environmental Safety Facility

  • Contaminated gloves and absorbents should be placed in the disposal bag in the spill kit for removal.
  • Properly label container with a completed Laboratory Waste Tag.
  • Follow the directions on the back of the Laboratory Waste Tag to have the spill material picked up. When in doubt, contact Environmental Safety via e-mail for specific instructions.

5. Clean Up

  • Wash your hand thoroughly, even if there is no visible contamination.
  • Replace items used in the spill kit by contacting Environmental Safety.

Major Chemical Spill

A major chemical spill is when:

  • A chemical is flammable, reactive or highly toxic.
  • Someone has been exposed to the chemical.
  • The spill is greater than 1 liter.
  • Too much of a chemical has been spilled for the amount of absorbent in the laboratory.

1. Protect yourself and others: Shut off any sources of ignition and stop the source of the spill, if you can do so without endangering yourself.

2. Evacuate the immediate area, closing the door behind you. Put the sign from the Chemical Spill Kit (available here in PDF format) up at the entrance to the laboratory.

3. Pull the fire alarm if building evacuation is necessary because:

  • A chemical reaction creates a fire or potential for a fire
  • The spill is flowing outside of the room.
  • Fumes or odors are permeating the building.
    (See Emergency Evacuation)

4. Call the UVM Emergency Number (911 on campus phones)
Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Your name,
  • Specific location of the spill,
  • Name of the substances spilled,
  • Quantity spilled.

5. Wait in a safe place for Police Services to arrive, and identify yourself to them.

Last Updated: March 2, 2007