Chemical Spills


If the chemical spill endangers other people outside your workspace or might cause a fire, pull the nearest fire alarm to initiate evacuation and call the local fire department. Call 911 as soon as you are safe to let emergency personnel know what happened. Stay available to help emergency personnel.

If the spill caused serious injury or exposure, call 911 from any phone or location (except call 3000 at Harborview Medical Center.) For chemical exposure, use the eye wash or safety shower for 15 minutes, removing all clothing that is contaminated with the chemical.

If you have been exposed to a spill and are not sure whether or not you should seek medical attention, you should request an exposure assessment. Call the Employee Hall Health Clinic at 206.685.1026. If you are at Harborview Medical Center, call 206.744.3081.

For more information on chemical spills and emergency response in laboratories, take the EH&S Managing Laboratory Chemicals training.



If you do not have an emergency but you need advice with spill cleanup or you need an outside contractor to do the cleanup for you, call EH&S spill advice line at 206.543.0467 during business hours. If you cannot wait until next business day for assistance, call 911.

You can clean up the spill yourself if you know what chemical was spilled and the hazards of that chemical, you can protect yourself from these hazards (with gloves, eye protection etc), and have, and know how to use, a chemical spill kit for that chemical.

The most common types of spills that cannot be cleaned up by laboratory staff, even with a respirator, are those that fill the laboratory with toxic vapors. The vapors may overwhelm the respirator, which are often designed only for normal use.

EH&S has created a custom general purpose spill kit for spills up to about a gallon in volume. It is available at Chemstore and Biochemistry Stores and you can order it from VWR through eProcurement for about $40. Instructions for ordering a spill kit through eProcurement is located on the ordering spill kits webpage.

The spill kit contains the following:

Absorbents Neutralizing material Containers and supplies Protective gear
Five spill pads, universal for acid, base, solvents and oil (absorbs about 5 liters of liquids) 1 box baking soda for neutralizing acids (neutralizes about two liters of concentrated acid, half that if dibasic) 4, 20 x 30", heavy duty (6mm) hazardous waste plastic bags 1 pair Silvershield gloves, protective against most chemicals
1 five gallon reusable screw top plastic drum. Use to store all kit supplies and later to hold spill waste for pickup by EH&S. 1 pair goggles
Snap together dust pan and brush8 pairs of Microgrip powder free nitrile gloves
Waste collection request and labels (available free from EH&S)

The general purpose spill kit is not sufficient for large spills. If you use hydrofluoric acid, you also need calcium gluconate gel. Calcium gluconate is manufactured by Calgonate Corporation and is sold in 25 gram tubes with a two-year shelf life. Price varies depending on the quantity of tubes purchased. For mercury spills, see our mercury spills page.

Chemical spill waste

Waste generated during cleanup is usually hazardous waste and must be contained, labeled, and disposed of as hazardous waste. There are a few exceptions, such as neutralized acid spill materials that have been soaked up in absorbent material such as paper towels. Follow trash and sink disposal guidelines for proper disposal - for example, solid non-hazardous materials must be double-bagged and labeled as non-hazardous waste before they are put in the trash.