5.4 Chemical Spill Procedures5.4 Chemical Spill Procedures
When a chemical spill occurs, it is necessary to take prompt and appropriate action. The type of response to a spill will depend on the quantity of the chemical spilled and the severity of the hazards associated with the chemical. The first action to take is to alert others in your lab or work area that a spill has occurred. Then you must determine if you can safely clean up the spill yourself.
At remote facilities, refer to your facility chemical spill response procedure.
Many chemical spills can be safely cleaned up by laboratory staff without the help of EHS. Only attempt to clean up incidental spills if you are trained and have the proper spill cleanup materials available. Note: The following advice is intended for spills that occur within a University building. A release to the outside environment may require the University file a report with the EPA. Calling Cornell Police at 607 255-1111 or 911 will initiate this determination by Environment, Health and Safety (EHS).
5.4.1 Incidental Spills5.4.1 Incidental Spills
A spill is considered incidental if the criteria below are met:
- The spill is a small quantity of a known chemical.
- No gases or vapors are present that require respiratory protection.
- You have the materials and equipment needed to clean up the spill.
- You have the necessary proper personal protective (PPE) equipment available.
- You understand the hazards posed by the spilled chemical.
- You know how to clean up the spill.
- You feel comfortable cleaning up the spill.
- You know how to properly dispose of spill cleanup procedures.
- You have a procedure to replace items used during the spill cleanup.
220.127.116.11 Incidental Spill Cleanup Procedures18.104.22.168 Incidental Spill Cleanup Procedures
- Notify other people in the area that a spill has occurred. Prevent others from coming in contact with the spill (i.e. walking through the spilled chemical). The first priority is to always protect yourself and others.
- Put on the Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as goggles, gloves, etc. before beginning cleanup. Do not unnecessarily expose yourself to the chemical.
- Stop the source of the spill if possible, and if safe to do so.
- Try to prevent spilled chemicals from entering waterways by building a dike around access points (sink, cup sinks, and floor drains inside and storm drains outside) with absorbent material if you can safely do so.
- Use the appropriate absorbent material for liquid spills (detailed in the following section).
- Slowly add absorbent material on and around the spill and allow the chemical to absorb. Apply enough absorbent to completely cover the spilled liquid.
- Sweep up the absorbed spill from the outside towards the middle.
- Scoop up and deposit in a leak-proof container.
- For acid and base spills, transfer the absorbed materials to a sink, and complete the neutralization prior to drain disposal.
- For absorbed hazardous chemicals, label the container and dispose of through the hazardous waste managementprogram.
- If possible, mark the area of the spill on the floor with chalk.
- Wash the contaminated surface with soapy water. If the spilled chemical is highly toxic, collect the rinse water for proper disposal.
- Report the spill to your supervisor.
- Restock any spill clean up supplies that you may have used from any spill kits.
5.4.2 Spill Absorbent Materials5.4.2 Spill Absorbent Materials
For acid spills (except Hydrofluoric acid):
- Sodium carbonate
- Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
- Calcium carbonate
- Calcium bicarbonate
- Do not use absorbent clay for acid spills
For Hydrofluoric acid (HF) spills:
- Use Calcium carbonate or Calcium bicarbonate to tightly bind the fluoride ion.
For liquid base spills:
- Use Sodium bicarbonate to lower the pH sufficiently for drain disposal.
For oil spills:
- Use ground corn cobs (SlikQwik), vermiculite, or absorbent clay (kitty litter).
For most acqueous solutions:
- Use ground corn cobs (SlikQwik)
For most organic liquid spills:
- Use ground corn cobs (SlikQwik). If the liquid is flammable, be sure to use an excess of SlikQwik.
For oxidizing liquids:
- Use absorbent clay, vermiculite, or some other nonreactive absorbent material. Do not use SlikQwik or paper towels. Note: Most nitrate solutions are not sufficiently oxidizing for this requirement.
For mercury spills:
- Do not dispose of mercury or mercury contaminated spill debris in the regular trash or down the drain.
- There is no absorbent material available. Physical removal processes are best for removing and collecting mercury.
- If you need help collecting Mercury from a spill, contact EHS spill responders by calling (607) 255-1111 or 911. Note: While powdered sulfur will help reduce mercury vapors, the sulfur greatly complicates the spill cleanup.
5.4.3 Spill Kits5.4.3 Spill Kits
While commercially available spill kits are available from a number of safety supply vendors, laboratory personnel can assemble their own spill kits to properly clean up chemicals specific to their laboratory. Whether commercially purchased or made in-house, it is expected that all laboratories have access to an appropriately stocked spill kit to address the hazards in the space. Colleges and departments should give serious consideration to distributing basic spill kits to all laboratories within their units.
A useful spill kit can be assembled using a 2.5 or 5 gallon bucket containing the following absorbent materials. Stock only the absorbents appropriate for your space. Each container of absorbent must be labeled as to what it contains and what type of spills it can be used for.
Spill kit absorbent material:
- 1-5 lbs of ground corn cobs (SlikQwik) – for most aqueous and organic liquid spills.
- 1-5 lbs of absorbent clay (kitty litter) - for oils or oxidizing liquids.
- 1-5 lbs of Sodium bicarbonate - for liquid acid and base spills.
- 1-5 lbs of Calcium carbonate or Calcium bicarbonate - for HF spills.
Equipment in the spill kit could include:
- Wisk broom and dust pan (available at home improvement stores)
- pH paper
- 1 gallon and 5 gallon bags - for collection of spill cleanup material
- Small and large Ziploc bags – for collection of spill cleanup material or to enclose leaking bottles/containers.
- Safety goggles
- Thick and thin Nitrile gloves
- Hazardous waste labels
The spill kit should be clearly labeled as “SPILL KIT”, with a list of the contents posted on or in the kit. This list should include information about restocking the kit after use and where to obtain restocking materials.
Laboratory personnel must also be properly trained on:
- How to determine if they can or should clean up the spill, or if they should call 911 or EHS at 607-255-8200.
- Where the spill kit will be kept within the laboratory.
- What items are in the kit and where replacement items can be obtained.
- How to use the items in the kit properly.
- How to clean up the different types of chemical spills.
- How to dispose of spill cleanup material.
Environmental Health and Safety can provide assistance in assembling spill kits for laboratories and offers a training class on “Cleaning Up Small Spills". More information can be obtained by contacting Environmental Health and Safety at 607-255-8200.
5.4.4 Major Spills5.4.4 Major Spills
A major spill is any chemical spill for which the researcher determines they need outside assistance to safely clean up a spill. EHS is activated to assist with spill cleanup whenever Cornell Police are notified of a spill by calling 911 from a campus phone or 607-255-1111 from a cell phone or off campus phone.
22.214.171.124 Major Spill Cleanup Procedures126.96.36.199 Major Spill Cleanup Procedures
When a spill occurs that you are not capable of handling:
- Alert people in the immediate area of the spill and evacuate the room.
- If an explosion hazard is present, do not unplug, or turn electrical equipment on or off – doing so can result in a spark and ignition source.
- Confine the hazard by closing doors as you leave the room.
- Use eyewash or safety showers as needed to rinse spilled chemicals off people or yourself.
- Evacuate any nearby rooms that may be affected. If the hazard will affect the entire building, then evacuate the entire building by pulling the fire alarm.
- Notify Cornell Police by calling 911 or using a Blue Light or Emergency Telephone. Always call from a safe location.
Be prepared to provide Cornell Police with the following information:
- Where the spill occurred (building and room number).
- If there are there any injuries and if medical attention is needed.
- The identity of the spilled material(s) - be prepared to spell out the chemical names.
- The approximate amount of material spilled.
- How the spill occurred (if you know).
- Any immediate actions you took.
- Who first observed the spill and the approximate time it occurred.
- Where you will meet emergency responders, or provide a call back number (if available).
- Once outside, notify emergency responders of the location, nature and size of the spill. Isolate contaminated persons and protect yourself and others from chemical exposure.