Questions to prepare for a chemical spill
Everyone should complete chemical safety training and be familiar with the hazards of the chemicals they use, protective measures, emergency protocols and waste management requirements. Our Managing Laboratory Chemicals course is an introduction to chemical safety for lab staff; staff members may need additional chemical specific training depending on their work.
Each lab should have a chemical spill cleanup kit. The general UW chemical spill kit contains five universal spill pads to absorb acids, bases, solvents and oil; a one-pound box of baking soda for neutralizing acids; four heavy-duty hazardous waste bags; one pair of SilverShield gloves; eight pair of nitrile gloves; one pair of goggles; a packet of waste collection labels; a dust pan and brush kit; and a hazardous waste collection form. The entire kit comes inside a five-gallon bucket with a screw-top lid for easy storage.
The mercury spill kit is great for cleaning up a small volume of mercury on a smooth surface, while a specialized mercury vacuum works well for larger mercury spills. For more information on mercury spills, visit our Mercury web page.
Make sure the lab has calcium gluconate gel available in case of a skin exposure, and calcium gluconate emergency eyewash in case of an eye exposure. See more information on the safe use of hydrofluoric acid on the Hydrofluoric Acid Focus Sheet.
Staff need to protect themselves from skin, eye and respiratory exposures during cleanup operations.
- If the risk of injury is low, a lab coat, silver shield gloves or other chemical compatible glove material, and safety goggles are the minimum personal protective gear staff need to manage most chemical spills.
- Tyvek coveralls, rubber apron or disposable shoe covers may be needed when managing certain types of materials.
- Spills outside of a fume hood and large-quantity spills are higher risk, especially if the chemical is reactive, highly volatile, corrosive, toxic, carcinogenic or a reproductive toxicant. Respiratory protection is often needed in these incidents, and the use of respirators requires prior fit testing, training and a medical evaluation.
Consult with EH&S when there is a risk of exposure or injury before beginning a chemical spill cleanup.