Handling Hazardous Chemicals

Close-up of a scientist in protective suit with hazardous blue chemical in flask at the laboratory

If your business involves the handling of toxic chemicals, it is the role of the employer to make sure all staff knows the proper protocol in order to prevent injury and/or illness. In the event of a chemical spill, take a look at the following procedures to minimize damage and loss of productivity.

Minor Spills

A spill is considered minor when it is contained to a small area, did not result in and does not present the risk of a fire or explosion, and did not result in personnel requiring medical attention. This is what should be done:

  • Alert everyone in the immediate area of the spill.
  • Put on the appropriate PPE (coat, gloves, goggles, etc.).
  • Contain the spill with spill pillows or other similar materials.
  • Once absorbed, place spill pillows in a secondary container, and label the container clearly.
  • Notify Environmental Health & Safety to pick up the container.
  • Thoroughly clean the area where the spill occurred.
  • Properly dispose of your PPE.

Major Spills

A major spill is obviously more serious than a minor one; it is characterized by resulting in personnel needing medical attention, results in a fire or explosion or presents the risk for fire or explosion, is not contained, or is deemed as such by the Emergency Coordinator. This is what should be done:

  • Remove anyone who has been injured or contaminated, as long as it can be done safely.
  • Contact the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802, which will help you in deciding how to respond to the spill. If there has been a fire, call the local fire department.
  • Remove any contaminated clothing or other materials and use a safety shower if possible.
  • Seek medical attention if you or someone else has been exposed.
  • Do not attempt to clean up a major spill on your own.

The specific response to a spill will vary depending on its type, size, location, and a number of other factors. Remember, the number one priority in the event of a spill is to protect personnel; confining the contamination is second (if you are trained and authorized to do so).

Courtesy of the Tufts University.

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