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What To Do:

  1. Keep Calm
  2. Alert Others
    • Evacuate the area if needed
  3. Assess the Situation
  4. Help Lab Members
    • Call 911 and Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) as necessary
    • Assist to Safety Shower/Eyewash and rinse for 15 minutes
    • Escort to Clinic or Medical Facility
  5. Report to EHS
Many laboratory spills are of limited hazard potential, and laboratory personnel can clean up safely. Your laboratory should be equipped to handle small low-hazard spills. You should call EHS (919-962-5507) if a spill situation involves any of the following:

  • a respiratory hazard
  • a threat of fire or explosion
  • more than 100 mL of an OSHA regulated chemical carcinogen or a highly toxic chemical (see appendices to Chapter 7 of the Laboratory Safety Manual)
  • more than 1 liter of a volatile or flammable solvent
  • more than 1 liter of a corrosive (acid or base) liquid
  • elemental (liquid) mercury spills

Chemical Spill Response Kit

Your laboratory should be equipped with protective clothing and spill cleanup materials to respond to small low-hazard chemical spills. Specialized chemical and corrosives spill kits are commercially available. In addition, you may obtain these materials to make your own spill kit.

  • 1 Pail, Plastic, 2.5 Gallon
  • 2 Oil Dri, Bentonite Clay, 5 lb. Bag
  • 2 Plastic Bags, Black, 3 mL 23x20x48
  • 1 Dust Pan with Brush, Polypropylene
  • 4 Bags, Zip-lock
  • 1 Pair Disposable, Nitrile Gloves (Large)
  • 2 Tags with Ties for Bags
  • 2 Pairs of Shoe Covers, Disposable Tyvek
  • 1 Label (sticker) “Chemical Spill Kit” for bucket
  • 1 Sign “Spill Area – Keep Out”
  • 1 Instruction sheet “Clean up of Laboratory Spills”
  • 1 Pair Safety Goggles
  • 2 Pair Gloves Neoprene 11″, Long
  • 2 Coveralls Tyvek®, Large

Response Steps for Chemical Spills

Step 1: Leave and Control Spill Area

  • Evacuate personnel from the immediate spill area.
  • Block off immediate spill area – close corridor doors, use lab carts, wastebaskets, etc.
  • Eliminate any fire hazard, especially if spill is flammable or combustible- turn off burners, electrical equipment, etc.
  • Post sign, “Spill Area – Keep Out”.
  • Alert other personnel in laboratory and adjacent areas of a chemical spill including the PI or Instructor.

Step 2: Help Injured Personnel

Take care of injured personnel- move from spill, remove contaminated clothing, flush skin with water, use eyewash and/or safety shower, etc. If there is a chemical splash to the eyes and/or there are burns or respiratory problems, seek medical attention.

Step 3: Evaluate Hazard

Make preliminary evaluation of hazard and identification of risks and decide whether you should call Environment, Health and Safety (EHS). If it can be handled without respiratory protection, continue with clean up.

Step 4: Clean Up Spill

  • Contain the spill using absorbent clay to stop spill from spreading under refrigerators, cabinets, equipment, drains, or corridors. Then spread clay around the perimeter, damming the spill.
  • Use the clay to absorb the rest of the liquid.
  • Scoop the clay/absorbed chemical mixture into a plastic pail lined with a plastic bag.
  • Seal plastic bag and containerize for disposal.
  • Wash and deactivate the spill surfaces of trace amounts of the spilled chemical. Contact EHS for advice.
  • Fill out Electronic Hazardous Material Pick-Up Request for collected spill material or call EHS for disposal instructions.
  • Replace used materials in spill kit.

Step 5: Review Incident

Review incident to prevent further spills and improve response procedures.

Accidents and injuries that occur in University workplaces should be reported to EHS. Information about what to do in the event of a workplace accident or injury can be found on the Workers’ Compensation page.
Hurricanes, tornadoes, high winds, flooding and other natural disasters can threaten the safety of laboratory personnel and detrimentally affect research operations in campus laboratories. Laboratory preparedness plans should be developed prior to these disaster events to ensure the preservation of life and property. The information outlined below is specific to campus laboratories. For general emergency preparedness information please see Alert Carolina.
Although Chapel Hill is not directly adjacent to the coast, hurricanes have caused devastation in our area previously due to high winds and flooding. In order to properly plan a course of action in research laboratories, it is important to understand the difference between a hurricane watch and hurricane warning. Both will be announced with plenty of time to implement laboratory preparedness procedures before leaving the lab.

Hurricane Watch

A hurricane watch is issued when hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or higher) are possible within specified area (48 hours in advance of the anticipated on-set of tropical storm force winds).

Once a hurricane watch is issued:

  • Complete all running experiments and do not start any new experiments
  • Listen to radio and television alerts and check Alert Carolina for updates

Hurricane Warning

A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified area (36 hours in advance of the anticipated tropical storm force winds).

Once a hurricane warning is issued:

  • Move all chemicals to appropriate storage locations (cabinets and shelves away from windows)
  • Ensure gas cylinders are capped and secured
  • Close fume hood sashes completely
  • Unplug all non-essential equipment
  • Use surge protectors to protect sensitive equipment in the event of a power surge
  • Turn refrigerators and freezers to coldest settings
  • Ensure refrigerators/freezers containing critical temperature-sensitive research materials are plugged into red emergency power outlets
  • No hazardous materials, waste or equipment should be left on the lab floor
  • Take copies of lab notebooks
  • Close and lock all laboratory doors
  • Ensure emergency contact information is up to date and posted on outside of lab door
  • REMEMBER– personal safety is the number one priority; follow all evacuation commands and do not enter buildings until an all-clear is given.
Tornadoes have occurred in our area and will not give as much warning or preparation time as for hurricanes. It is imperative that laboratory personnel are aware of tornado watches and warnings and follow the University’s emergency sirens and messages posted on Alert Carolina.

Tornado Watch

A tornado watch is issued when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area.

Once a tornado watch is issued:

  • Complete all running experiments and do not start any new experiments
  • Listen to radio and television alerts and check Alert Carolina for updates

Tornado Warning

A tornado warning is issued when a tornado is indicated by radar or sighted by spotters; people in affected areas should seek shelter immediately.

Once a tornado warning is issued:

  • Seek shelter immediately in an inner hallway or basement away from windows
  • Do not stay in the laboratory near glassware and hazardous materials
  • Close and lock all laboratory doors
  • If a tornado occurs and damage has been done in the building do not enter the lab space until it can be cleared by emergency response personnel
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