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Hazardous Materials Release

Response Procedures for Chemical and Oil Spills

  • If you see or suspect a release of hazardous materials, immediately get to a safe location and contact Public Safety at ext. 5252 or by using one of the “blue light” phones and follow their instructions. Report the specific location of the emergency (building and room number), the nature of the emergency, the location of individuals with disabilities or others needing assistance, and your name and location.
  • If the emergency involves a fire or otherwise requires building evacuation, immediately remove yourself to safety and activate the building fire alarm at the fire alarm pull-box.
  • Extinguish all sources of ignition and stop the source of the release if it is safe to do so.
  • Alert people to evacuate the immediate area. Avoid breathing vapors and quickly determine the chemical and the quantity of material that has spilled. Notify the laboratory supervisor and/or principal investigator.
  • Attend to any persons contaminated by chemicals by removing contaminated clothing, and when feasible, flush the affected body area with water, for at least 20 minutes, using available safety shower/eye wash equipment.
  • If feasible, don the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and prevent spilled material from reaching floor drains or stormwater conveyances. Confine the spill by using absorbent material (spill pillows, paper towels, paper, berms) or an available spill kit. Spill residue and debris will be discarded as hazardous waste through EH&S.
  • Remain calm, move away from the site, keep people away from the scene, and offer assistance to the disabled and others as needed until help arrives.
  • If feasible, open room windows and close the doors to the affected area upon leaving.
  • On receiving a call about an incident on Campus, Public Safety will dispatch a patrol officer and other emergency administrators to investigate the incident and assess the situation. The first responders should approach the incident from an upwind direction. Do not step in or touch the spilled material. Avoid inhaling fumes, smoke, or vapors. Do not assume that harmful gases or vapors are not present because you cannot smell them.
  • If possible, obtain the chemical Safety Data Sheet (SDS).  Or, identify the suspected material by looking for: (1) a 4-digit ID number on a placard or orange panel; and/or (2) name of material on shipping paper, placard, or package and/or (3) hazard warning labels. Report identity of spilled material, if known, to Public Safety.
  • The emergency administrators will immediately determine the need for and extent of evacuation.
  • If it is an incidental spill, internal responders will be summoned to the scene to conduct clean up operations.  Large-scale spills will require the services of an emergency spill response contractor.
  • If the spill is a non-incidental spill, Public Safety will contact the Fire Department and/or outside response contractors and ask them to respond to the incident.
  • When the Fire Department and/or outside emergency response contractors report to the site of the emergency, one of the outside supervisors will assume the role of the Incident Commander and coordinate the response efforts among the various response parties.
  • The Department of Environmental Health & Safety and other campus departments and areas maintain libraries with Safety Data Sheets that can be relied upon to provide useful information in the event of a hazardous materials release.
  • Any spilled material and clean up debris will be properly characterized and disposed in accordance with applicable regulations

Response Procedures for Chemical Explosions

In the event a mishap occurs such as an explosion on campus take the following action:

  • Immediately take cover under tables, desks and other objects, which will give protection against falling/flying glass or debris.
  • After the initial effects of the explosion and/or fire have subsided, notify Public Safety at ext. 5252. Give your name and describe the location and nature of the emergency. Be sure to notify Public Safety of any known special hazards, like gas leaks and power failures.
  • Alert and evacuate all personnel in the immediate area
  • Attend to any persons contaminated by chemicals by removing contaminated clothing, and when feasible, flush the affected body area with water, for at least 20 minutes, using available safety shower/eye wash equipment.
  • Close all doors leading to the affected area, and secure the area until Public Safety and other emergency administrators arrive to evaluate the situation. Try to explain the cause of the explosion and the materials/chemicals involved.  If possible, obtain the chemical Safety Data Sheet (SDS).
  • If the explosion threatens you and other building occupants, or if you are instructed to do so, activate the building fire alarm to signal that an emergency exists. Walk quickly to the nearest marked exit, and proceed to the nearest exit.
  • Once you are out of the building, immediately notify Public Safety at ext. 5252 from a safe location. Report the specific location of the emergency (building and room number), the nature of the emergency, the location of individuals with disabilities or others needing assistance, and your name and location.
  • While on the phone with Public Safety, indicate whether chemicals or fuel oil are involved, and identify the chemical (if known).
  • Individuals with disabilities should look for areas of refuge like stairwells with fire doors or safe areas in classroom buildings.
  • Public Safety will contact the fire department to respond to all fires.

Response Procedures for Biohazard Spills

Spills in the University laboratory:

Investigators are generally responsible for cleaning up biological spills they create in the lab. Laboratories are required to maintain basic materials for response to routine spills (ie, biological spill kits). EH&S is available to consult on clean-up procedures and will assume responsibility for cleaning the spill if it is beyond the scope of the lab staff’s ability, due to hazard level or resource limitation.

Spills in common areas:

Facilities Services is generally responsible for cleaning up biological spills that are, for example, in a non-laboratory hallway floor or in a restroom. EH&S is available to consult on clean up procedures and will assume responsibility for the spill if it is large-scale.

Biohazard Spill Clean-Up Procedures

  1. Personal exposure takes priority over clean up.  If exposure occurs, immediately remove contaminated clothing and other protective equipment and wash affected areas with soap and water. If medical follow-up is warranted it should be sought immediately at a local Emergency Room or through your healthcare provider.
  2. Spill response procedures involving microorganisms, including recombinant microorganisms, requiring BSL1 or BSL2 containment.
    • Alert personnel in vicinity to leave the immediate area.
    • Don protective equipment (gown/lab coat, gloves, eye protection).
    • Cover an area twice the size of the spill with paper towels, or other absorbent material.
    • Pour disinfectant solution onto the spill, starting at the perimeter and working inward from the edges of the towels. Avoid splashing.
    • Allow 20 minute contact period.
    • Wipe down any contaminated stationary equipment or furniture twice with disinfectant. Contaminated fabric-covered furniture or porous material should generally be treated with disinfectant and then discarded. EH&S can provide a consultation on other contingencies.
    • Use forceps, tongs, or broom to remove broken glass and other items; place in sharps container or red bag, as appropriate.
    • Remove towels and re-clean area with disinfectant solution.
    • Collect and dispose in a red, Biohazardous Materials bag, or other Regulated Medical Waste (RMW) container.
    • Decontaminate (autoclave, or use a chemical disinfectant) reusable clean-up items and other permanent equipment.
    • Inform laboratory personnel when the clean-up is complete.
    • Procedures for BSL-1 and BSL-2 laboratories should incorporate a degree of flexibility. One could safely abridge the procedures above if 1 ml were spilled over a small bench top area. However, dropping 50 ml of culture on the floor necessitates the more detailed procedure.                  
  3. Spills outside the laboratory in common areas
    • Viable organisms should only leave the laboratory in a well-sealed primary (inner) and secondary (outer) container with a closable top. A test-tube rack inside a tray is not acceptable for transport.
    • The exterior of the secondary container should be wiped down with disinfectant prior to leaving the laboratory.
    • In the unlikely event of a spill, post someone to notify people in the immediate area, collect PPE and clean-up material and then proceed with clean-up, as described above. Public Safety can help restrict access to contaminated areas.
  4. Abandoned spills in common areas
    • Biological spills encountered in a hallway (e.g. leaking red bag placed inappropriately on the floor). Notify personnel to avoid the immediate area. Notify EH&S. Public Safety can help restrict access to contaminated areas.
    • Blood spills encountered in a bathroom (e.g. menstrual blood or nosebleed). Such spills should be reported to Facilities.