Risk Management Services

A Unit of the Business Affairs Division

Chemical Spills and Other Accidental Releases

Notes and Precautions

The range and quantity of hazardous substances used in laboratories require preplanning to respond safely to chemical spills. Only knowledgeable and experienced personnel should do the cleanup of a chemical spill. Spill kits with instructions, absorbents, reactants, and protective equipment should be available to clean up minor spills. A minor chemical spill is one that the laboratory staff is capable of handling safely without the assistance of safety and emergency personnel. All other chemical spills are considered major. Contact Risk Management Services (621-1790) to ensure proper procedures are being taken to clean up the spill.

Major Chemical Spill

  • If the situation is life or health-threatening or you are unsure, immediately evacuate the laboratory, floor, or building (whatever is appropriate), shut doors to the area and alert those in the vicinity to do the same. If necessary, pull the nearest fire alarm and evacuate the building.
  • From a remote location, immediately call the University Police Department by dialing 911.
  • Have person knowledgeable of incident and laboratory assist emergency personnel.

Minor Chemical Spill

  • If the situation is not health-threatening and trained people and proper clean-up equipment are on hand, you may clean-up the spill and dispose of waste materials properly.
  • However, even under seemingly innocuous conditions, it is recommended that RMS be consulted to be sure that the right steps are being taken to clean-up the spill.

Major Toxic or Flammable Gas Leak

  • If the situation is life or health-threatening or you are unsure, immediately evacuate the laboratory, shut doors to the area and alert those in the vicinity to do the same.
  • Pull the nearest fire alarm to evacuate the building and notify emergency response personnel.
  • Remain at a distance of at least 200 feet from the building, wait for emergency response personnel and provide them with any details you may know about the problem.
  • If you are a supervisor, try to account for your employees and report any missing persons to the emergency personnel at the scene.
  • Do not re-enter the building until directed to do so by emergency response personnel.

Minor Toxic or Flammable Gas Leak

  • If the situation is not health-threatening, place the leaking cylinder in a fume hood, close the sash and open windows if possible to ventilate the area.
  • Notify RMS immediately by calling 621-1790.

Mercury Spill

  • Notify RMS immediately by calling 621-1790. RMS has a vacuum specifically designed for mercury use. The vacuum collects mercury droplets and captures mercury vapor.
  • Isolate the spill. Restrict foot traffic in the area. Protect sinks and floor drains from contamination.
  • Do not put sulfur on the spill. It hinders clean-up and makes ultimate disposal difficult and more expensive.

Unusual or Out-of-Place Odor

  • Call RMS at 621-1790 to report the odor. RMS provides guidance or investigates the odor if necessary.