Chemical Spills in Laboratories

Be prepared with proper training, cleanup supplies and personal protective equipment to manage spills easily and safely.

If you work with chemicals, you will probably have a chemical spill at some point. Your safety, and the safety of others, depends on your assessment and response.

To assess whether you and your fellow researchers are prepared to manage a chemical spill, consider these questions:


Questions to consider

Order a spill kit

EH&S has created a general purpose spill kit customized for chemical spills up to about one gallon in volume. It is available at the Chemistry Store and the Biochemistry Store. You can also order it from VWR through Ariba for about $40. Instructions for ordering spill kits are available on the Ordering Spill Kits Focus Sheet.

The general purpose spill kit is not sufficient for large spills or mercury spills. For mercury spills, see our Mercury Spills Focus Sheet.

If you work with hydrofluoric acid, you will need to have calcium gluconate gel on hand in case of skin exposures. For more information on hydrofluoric acid, see our Hydrofluoric Acid Focus Sheet.

Waste generated during a chemical spill cleanup is usually a hazardous waste and must be contained, labeled and disposed properly. Here are a few exceptions:

  • Neutralized acid spills can be soaked up in absorbent material such as paper towels. Follow trash and sink disposal guidelines for proper disposal.
  • Solid and nonhazardous chemicals can be double-bagged, labeled as nonhazardous waste and placed in the trash.

What you can do to stay safe

  • EH&S is available to consult on chemical spills and emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call the EH&S chemical spill line at 206.543.0467 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. After normal business hours call UWPD at 911 on the Seattle Campus. If the spill cleanup involves a risk of exposure or injury, EH&S can arrange for a hazardous material spill cleanup contractor at the lab’s expense.
  • If the chemical spill endangers people, pull the nearest fire alarm to initiate an evacuation and then call 911 (222 on UW Medical Center phones, and 4-5555 on Harborview Medical Center phones). Stay available to meet emergency personnel.
  • For chemical exposure, use the eye wash or safety shower for 15 minutes. Remove contaminated clothing while under the safety shower to prevent the spread of chemical. Wait for medics to arrive and treat injuries and exposures.
  • If you want to speak with a medical professional after a spill, call the Employee Health Center at 206.685.1026 to set up an appointment. At Harborview Medical Center call 206.744.3081, and at UW Medical Center call 206.598.4848.

Services Available

EH&S provides the following services:

  • Consultation on spill cleanup

  • Hire a spill cleanup contractor

  • Provide training on safe use of chemicals

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Call 911 and wait for responders to arrive. If it’s not urgent, make an appointment with the Employee Health Center at 206.685.1026 to discuss your concerns.

Yes, EH&S requires labs to have a chemical spill kit. Don’t forget to restock or replace your chemical spill kit after use. Purchase replacement parts for the spill kit through Ariba and VWR.

No. EH&S can advise on spill cleanup methods and procedures, but does not clean up chemical spills. EH&S can hire a spill cleanup contractor at the lab’s expense to manage a chemical spill.

UW chemical spill kits are available for purchase through Ariba and contain 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; a pair of SilverShield gloves; eight pair of nitrile gloves; a 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.

More Information


Spill Advice

(206) 543-0467
Reference Files