Laboratory Chemical Spill Clean-Up Procedures

Emergency Numbers

Newark Lewes Georgetown
Police/ Fire/ Ambulance 911 9-911 99-911
Poison Control 9-1-800-722-7112

Chemical Spill Clean Up Training is required for anyone who uses the Chemical Spill Response Kit. Contact Environmental Health & Safety to schedule a training session.

The Laboratory Chemical Spill Clean Up Procedures were developed to give guidance to knowledgeable laboratory personnel on the safe and effective way to clean up small laboratory spills. These procedures do not take the place of the Department of Environmental Health & Safety (DEHS). If you have ANY questions or concerns about the spill clean up process, contact us. We will either give you information over the phone or come and assist with the clean up.

Introduction

The Laboratory Chemical Spill Clean Up Procedures were created to give researchers and laboratory personnel a starting point for developing a chemical spill kit and providing guidance for cleaning up chemical spills. Chemical spills and accidents need to be minimized as much as possible. If a chemical spill should occur, a quick response with a stocked chemical spill kit will help minimize potential harm to personnel, equipment and laboratory space. Outlined in Table 2, is the minimal equipment required for a spill kit. You may add equipment to the kit, provided all personnel are proficient in its use. An example would be adding a metallic mercury spill kit. Contact DEHS for information and guidance in construction of an advanced spill kit. Click HERE for information on purchasing a spill kit. All of the suggested equipment was taken from Lab Safety Supply (1-800-356-0783). Other suppliers and manufacturers may be substituted, provided they meet the minimal specifications.

Note that the majority of chemical spills can be prevented or minimized by:

  1. Maintaining a neat and organized work area;
  2. Performing a laboratory procedure review prior to conducting new experimental procedures;
  3. Storing liquid chemicals in secondary containment bins;
  4. Keeping reagent chemical containers sealed or closed at all times, except when removing contents;
  5. Ordering reagent chemicals in plastic or plastic coated glass containers whenever possible;
  6. Using secondary containment to store and move chemicals.

Types of Spills that Cannot Be Handled by Laboratory Personnel

If the spill is too large for you to handle, involves more than 500 ml of any hazardous material, involves materials listed in the table below; is a threat to personnel, students or the public; involves radioactive material; involves an infectious agent; or involves a corrosive, highly toxic, or reactive chemical, call for assistance.

Chemical Class
Example
Strong Acids - Any acid that is concentrated enough to fume or emit acid gases Fuming Sulfuric Acid
Red Nitric Acid
Hydrofluoric Acid
Perchloric Acid
Strong Bases - Any base that is concentrated enough to emit vapors Ammonium Hydroxide
Poison by Inhalation - Any chemical that readily emits vapors / gases at normal temperature and pressure that are extremely toxic by inhalation Phosphorous Oxychloride
Titanium Tetrachloride
Formates
Isocyanates
Reactive - Any chemical that is sensitive to air, water shock, friction and/or temperature Dry Picric Acid
Lithium Aluminum hydride
Sodium Borohydride
Phosphorus Metal
Organic Peroxides
Mercury - Any mercury compound Metallic Mercury
Mercury Salts
Aqueous Mercury Solutions
Extremely Toxic - Any chemical that is readily absorbed through the skin and is extremely toxic at small concentrations Benzene
Sodium Cyanide

Types of Spills that Can Be Handled by Laboratory Personnel

Minor spills do not necessarily need the assistance of DEHS. Laboratory workers who have had the proper training and possess the appropriate equipment can safely and effectively handle the majority of chemical spills that occur in the laboratory. In addition, spills involving multiple chemicals may pose various hazards. Always contact DEHS if multiple chemicals are involved in a spill.

Except for the chemical classes in Table I, labs can handle spills involving one liter or less of liquid and one pound or less of a solid. If the spill is large, contact DEHS to assist with the clean up. Refer to the Hazardous Materials Safety Manual or the chemical spill section of the Chemical Hygiene Plan for specific spill clean up techniques. The following procedures are specific guidelines for using the recommended spill clean up materials. Contact DEHS with any questions or concerns about proper spill clean-up practices.

General Spill Clean up Procedures

In the event of a chemical spill, first decide if you are trained, knowledgeable and equipped to handle the incident. Immediately evacuate the lab and notify UDPD if there is a possibility of an acute respiratory hazard present or if you need assistance to clean up the spill. Never proceed to clean up a spill if you do not know the hazards associated with the chemical or if you are unsure of how to clean up the spill. If anyone is injured or contaminated, immediately notify UDPD and begin decontamination measures or first aid, if trained.

Don the personal protective equipment from the spill kit; splash goggles and nitrile/Silver Shield combination gloves. Always ask a fellow researcher for assistance. They should also don splash goggles and nitrile/Silver Shield combination gloves. Make sure that all forms of local exhaust, i.e. fume hoods, are operating. It is normally not advisable to open the windows. If broken glass is involved, do not pick it up with your gloved hands. Use the scoop or tongs to place it in the bag, then place the bag in a strong cardboard box or plastic container. Follow the procedures provided below based on the class and type of chemical.

All tools used in the clean up need to be decontaminated (plastic scoop, tongs, etc.). Remove all gross contamination with a wet paper towel. Dispose of the contaminated paper towels as waste. Rinse the tools off with copious amounts of water. Dispose of the gloves as waste. Dry the tools off and place back into the spill kit along with the splash goggles. Contact DEHS to obtain replacement gloves and spill clean-up material.

Liquid Spills other than flammable liquids

Spread the chemical spill powder over the spill starting with the edges first. This will help to confine the spill to a smaller area. Spread enough powder over the spill to completely cover the liquid. There should be no free liquid. Use the plastic scoop to ensure that the liquid was completely absorbed by the powder. Pick up the powder with the scoop and place in the polyethylene bag. Wipe the area down with a wet paper towel. Dispose of the paper towel with the waste generated from the spill clean up. Seal bag with tape and attach a completed orange hazardous waste sticker on the bag.

Flammable Liquid Spills

Control all sources of ignition. Lay the chemical spill pads over the spill. These pads are designed to suppress the vapors emitted by a volatile liquid. Allow pads to completely soak up the liquid. Pick up pads with tongs or other device that minimizes direct contact with a gloved hand. Place in the polyethylene bag. Wipe the area down with a wet paper towel. Dispose of the paper towel with the waste generated from the spill clean up. Seal the bag with tape and attach a completed orange hazardous waste sticker on the bag.

Solid Spills

Use the plastic scoop to place the spilled material into the polyethylene bag. Care should be taken so as not to create dust or cause the contaminated powder to become airborne. After the bulk of the material is cleaned up, wet a spill pad and wipe the area down. Place the pads into the polyethylene bag. Wipe the area down with a wet paper towel. Dispose of the paper towel with the waste generated from the spill clean up. Seal the bag with tape and attach a completed orange hazardous waste sticker on the bag.

Note: Precautions must be taken to minimize exposure to the spilled chemical. Be careful not to step in the spilled material and track it around. Contact DEHS and UDPD if an exposure to a chemical occurs.

Table 2: Chemical Spill Kit Minimal Requirements
Universal Chemical Absorbent Pads

  • High Capacity
  • Chemically Inert
  • Absorbs aggressive chemicals as well as non-aggressive compounds such as water
  • Good for all chemicals
    • Acids, excluding Hydrofluoric
    • Bases
    • Flammable Liquids
    • Formaldehyde
    • Organic Peroxides
Universal Chemical Absorbent Powder

  • High Capacity
  • Chemically Inert
  • Absorbs aggressive chemicals as well as non-aggressive compounds such as water
  • Good for all chemicals
    • Acids, including Hydrofluoric
    • Bases
    • Flammable Liquids
    • Formaldehyde
    • Organic Peroxides
Plastic Scoop

  • Anti-Static
  • Polypropylene Plastic
Polyethylene Bags

  • Strong Construction
  • Leak Proof
  • At least 7-gallon capacity
  • 4mm in thickness
Nitrile/Silver Shield Combination Gloves

  • 0.011 thick Nitrile Gloves
  • At least two pairs
Chemical Splash Goggles

  • At least two pairs
Orange Chemical Waste Labels

Questions regarding chemical waste issues may be addressed to Jane Frank or call 831-2103.