Fixation on Histology

Is Your Lab Ready for a Large Chemical Spill?

The good news is, chances are you won’t have to deal with a large chemical spill in your lab. But the bad news is, if this type of accident occurs, your lab is probably not going to be prepared for it.
“Large chemical spills are not common, thank goodness, but they do happen. And when they do happen, they're very serious. What I've seen in labs all across the country is that we are not ready,” Daniel J. Scungio, MT (ASCP), SLS, CQA (ASQ), explained during the NSH Chemical Hygiene Hacks webinar. “We're not ready to handle large spills. We're not ready to handle the use of the safety shower should something happen. We don't always have the spill kits we need. We're not ready to use them and things aren't set up in our labs to help us handle this very serious situation when it occurs. Let's hope it doesn't happen, but we have to be ready for when it does.”

Large Chemical Spill Preparation Hacks

 Although a large chemical spill is not likely to happen in your lab, you need to have a plan to ensure you’re prepared for the worst. Scungio offers the following tips to help labs get ready.

Spill Kits

You already have spill kits in your lab, but are they the right kind? Be sure that you have a large volume spill kit that can hold back great amounts of water if the shower is used, or a large spill occurs—such as if the spigot pops off of a five-gallon cube of formaldehyde—so you can keep the chemicals from spreading. Also, make sure that you have enough formula neutralizer in your spill kit for the biggest amount of formula.

Additionally, Scungio suggests that labs prepare by having the right number of shaker containers.
“They're great, but they only neutralize a liter,” he said. “If I only spill a liter, that's great, but if I spill five gallons, I'm going to need more than one shaker bottle; I might need five or six.”

HazMat Response Team

Whether you have an internal or external HazMat response team, you need to know who is going to react to a spill that is too big to take care of yourself. Also, Scungio suggests that response team members have clearly defined roles that are well-known long before any problems occur.
“That's something you really need to consider. And of course, you've got to train the people who are going to respond to a spill in your laboratory,” Scungio said. “There are lots of things that people can do, but they need to be trained properly to do it.”

Spill drills

To ensure that everyone on your team understands what to do during a large chemical spill, Scungio suggests that you perform spill drills at least quarterly. If you are not sure how to do this, he describes his method this way:
“I like to take a bucket, write a chemical name on it, and fill it with water. I'll get an actor or actress to speak to before the drill happens and tell them what to do. I usually tell them to walk into the lab with that bucket, drop it on the floor, yell out that they got it in their eyes, and then see where it goes from there. I want to see that people are identifying the chemical that was spilled, getting the spill supplies, and using them properly, getting the safety data sheet, and helping get the person to the eyewash or shower depending on the need. You want to see all those pieces of the response in the drill. There's a lot to think about and it needs to be a team effort.”
By implementing these preparation hacks, labs can mitigate risks and ensure a swift, coordinated response to any large chemical spill. Remember, readiness is not just about hoping for the best, but actively planning for the worst. Take the necessary steps today to safeguard your lab and its occupants against potential hazards.
For further insights into managing lab activities and addressing critical issues, click here to register for the NSH webinar, Chemical Hygiene Hacks. Together, let's prioritize safety and preparedness in our labs.


1 comment



04-06-2024 10:28

I'm delighted by the article and want to express my gratitude for sharing it! I observed and witness the eye wash and emergency shower areas cluttered with garbage and other items. Additionally, new employees are not receiving proper safety orientation, particularly regarding large spills. I've learned that because significant hazardous incidents are infrequent, they tend to be forgotten. The article's message of "Not hoping for the best, but actively planning for the worst" resonates with me. Ensuring regular checks of hazard kits and materials, along with reminding existing employees, providing well-structured training and orientation to new employees, and according to accreditation rules practicing hazard reminding whistle periodically, are all crucial.