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Handling Chemical Spills



Failure to respond to a spill, whether large or small, could result in the endangerment of public health and the environment. Therefore, all laboratory personnel must be prepared for handling spilled or accidentally released chemicals.

All chemical spills must be disposed as per the regulations and standards, such as Resource Conservation and Recovery Act or RCRA, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986.

The more quickly the spill is controlled, the more likely it will be contained in a small area, and the less severe the damage could be.

In this video, we will discuss the procedures for spill containment, post spill cleanup, and prevention measures one could take to avoid spills.

Before attempting to control a spill, put on proper personal protective equipment, such as chemical resistant gloves and safety goggles.

Stop the flow of the material being spilled, to minimize the damage, then isolate the spill site by marking or roping off the area.

In case of a large spill or an acutely dangerous chemical, evacuate the area immediately and seek help by contacting local emergency services. Have someone remain near the scene to provide information from safety data sheets to the responders.

Once the spill has been controlled, contain the spilled material to prevent spreading by using sorbent from chemical spill kits located in the laboratory directly on or around it.

Avoid contaminating surrounding areas and make sure to prevent spills from going down any drains.

When a spill occurs, have the person responsible clean it up. Report any unattended spills to the EH&S office.

EHS will oversee or assist in the cleanup depending on the toxicity or the quantity of the material. Decontamination or neutralization of the area may be required.

Remove any sorbent material used to soak up the spill to a container, and label it as hazardous waste. Also properly dispose of gloves and contaminated garments immediately after cleanup.

Finally, verify with your organization's EHS office that the spill cleanup meets regulatory requirements and standards.

While it is prudent to learn how to handle chemical spills, it is also wise to learn how to prevent them from happening. An important first step is to assess the types of chemical hazards present, and pay close attention to their storage. This will be covered in more detail in this collection.

Also, maintain laboratory equipment used near chemicals, by periodically checking for leaks, loose connections, or faulty valves.

You've just watched JoVE's introduction to handling chemical spills. You should now understand how to control, contain, and clean them up. Thanks for watching!

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