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Chemical Emergency Procedures


All laboratory personnel need to know what to do in the event of a chemical spill or other emergency that may occur in UHD laboratories. Most spills can be avoided if proper spill prevention guidelines are followed.  While most spills can be safely cleaned up by those who caused the spill, some spills should only be cleaned up by specifically trained emergency response personnel. The CSO, PI, and the Health and Safety office must be notified whenever there is a chemical spill that poses any health or environmental risk.  An analysis of the spill will be conducted in order to find out the cause of the spills and what methods should be taken to prevent it from happening again.


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Chemical Spill Prevention​

To prevent spills labs should reduce clutter and unnecessary materials in the work areas, eliminate tripping hazards and collect all of the needed equipment before starting work.  Chemicals and supplies should be stored on sturdy shelves (shelves with lipped edges are preferred) and larger containers should be stored close to the floor.  Containers should be pushed to the back of shelves.  Never store unprotected glass on the floor

Transportation Precautions

If chemicals must be transferred from one area to another, then carts, safety container and/or bottle carriers should be utilized as appropriate.  All potential hazards should be considered before transporting chemicals so spills can be prevented.

Precautions for Transferring between Containers

When transferring chemicals it is necessary to pay careful attention to the size of the container being used to avoid overfilling.  Pumps or other mechanical devices should be utilized when possible rather than simply pouring a chemical.   When transferring it may also be necessary to pour in a hood or in a secondary container to capture leaks and spills.

Materials Available for Spill

Before any hazardous chemical is used in the laboratory, the PI has the responsibility to perform a hazard assessment of the procedure to be undertaken.  This would include determining what could go wrong and what to do in the event of a spill or other emergency. When performing this task, the PI should determine what PPE is needed, as well as any other safety equipment and containment/clean-up materials and to have these items on hand. Spill control kits should be available and their locations clearly marked. All staff and students should be aware of the kits, how to use them and their limitations. Suggested items for a Small Spill Kit are:

  • Safety goggles
  • Lab coat
  • Small bag of absorbent (kitty litter)
  • Five gallon plastic bucket
  • Heavy gloves appropriate for the material
  • Acid/base neutralization materials
  • Acid spill: sodium bicarbonate
  • Base spill: monosodium phosphate
  • Small broom and dustpan


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Emergency Response to Chemical Spills​

Any time a spill occurs there are certain procedures to follow to ensure the situation is controlled as much as it possibly can be. If a small spill is not handled properly, it can turn into a much more serious situation. Large spills can turn into major catastrophes if not handled properly.

In the case of a chemical spill:

  • Notify the CSO or PI. Depending on the hazardous nature of the chemical spilled, the CSO or Principal Lab Supervisor will decide if the situation warrants notifying the UHD President, Health and  Safety office, or any other responders.
  • If the chemical is hazardous do not attempt to clean up the spill.
  • Alert other staff and students in the area of the spill.
  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety goggles, gloves, and long-sleeved lab coat.
  • Avoid breathing vapor of spilled materials.
  • Absorb or cover the spill with suitable materials, collect residue, place in container and dispose of through the Campus Hazardous Waste Program (work with NS and EHS).
  • Clean spill area with soap and water for final decontamination
  • In case of skin contact, flush the area with large amounts of water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical assistance.
  • In case of eye contact, flush eyes for at least 15 minutes with large amounts of water and seek medical assistance
  • Remember to call 911 (x9-911 or 713-221-9911) for all medical emergencies and notify the CSO and Principal Lab Supervisor. Depending  on the nature of the contamination, they in turn may need to notify the UHD President and Health & Safety Officer.

In the case of large chemical spills:

  • Attend to injured or contaminated persons and remove them from the area and alert people in and around the lab to evacuate.
  • Call 911 (or x9-911 or 713-221-9911) for emergency responders (as needed) and have knowledgeable laboratory staff available to consult with emergency responders.
  • Turn off ignition and heat sources.
  • Close doors to affected areas.
  • Meet at a designated area away from the incident to ensure all persons are accounted for.
  • Notify the CSO and Principal Lab Supervisor who shall in turn notify: the University President, V.P. for Academic Affairs, Health & Safety Officer and the Director of the Physical Plant.


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Last updated 11/13/2019 2:29 AM