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Chemical Spills

Hi I'm Jill, Chief Safety Officer with Vivid Learning Systems. I'm a former OSHA inspector and I'm here to help you identify and correct workplace safety hazards.

For this series we're at the University of Louisville in beautiful Kentucky to show you no matter where you work, safety is for everyone. Today we're talking about chemical spills and how to clean them up. We are at the University of Louisville in a lab and I'm with Kathy Price who is a chemical regulatory specialist. Thanks for being with us Kathy. Thank you Jill, thanks for having me.

So we're going to be talking about how to clean up small spills. So can you tell us what constitutes a small spill or a large spill? Well Jill a small spill would be something that the like usually is less than 500 milliliters, the lab personnel are familiar with the spill and the hazards associated with this spill, and usually the chemical is something that's moderately toxic. A large spill would be something that's greater than 500 milliliters or it could be a small spill or any of any size that is considered acutely highly toxic and that's typically we get we're here we define as has a ld50 oral toxicity of 50 milligrams per liter. So that's in general terms that would that's what would constitute a large spill any sponsor. Good, thank you.

So in order to clean up a spill we need a spill kit, can you talk with us about what should be in a spill kit, and can you make your own? Yes, you can buy a spill kit that's you know preassembled from a manufacturer or like you said could make their own spill kit. So typically what the lab needs to have in this spill kit would be items that would be relevant to the chemicals they're using in their lab. For example if they're you have solvents their lab they might want to have Universal absorbent spill pads or pillows. If they have acids and bases they can get acid neutralizing agents or base neutralizing agents, or if they have mercury perhaps they might need to get some mercury amalgams orbit. So really the spill kit should be comprised of absorbance that can handle small spills in the laboratory. It should also have safety goggles, gloves, tongs, small scoop, and bags, plastic bags, collect and contain the spill, cleanup debris.

Now you had mentioned safety glasses or goggles what other kind of personal protective equipment should be available for people to have? Usually they should double glove with nitrile gloves and wear safety glasses or goggles, and you know that's pretty much what they need to have on.

So Kathy who's qualified to clean up a spill. Well here at U of L lab personnel that worked with chemicals have to attend a classroom session for the DHS lab safety training. The PI in addition also has lab specific training and in that lab specific training they will go over with their people the location of their spill kit. Their first-aid kit, the location of the eye washing emergency shower and the phone, so it was really that's the type of training it's really on-the-job training that they would get. Very good, Kathy what other things should we be considering when we're talking about a small chemical spill cleanup. Well what they would want to do is they would be to locate where their spill kit is get the spill kit available. If the spill happens in an area where it's near a sink they should try to divert the path either by putting down a paper towel to keep it from going down the sink. Once they get the spill kit together in their location go ahead and put on their gloves their safety glasses and cover the spill with the appropriate padding absorb it up and then take the debris and put it inside a ziploc bag and then they can decontaminate the surface with like soap and water.

Okay now if it's a larger spill then maybe they would you know not be able to handle it go ahead and notify their co-workers that are in the area, and then go ahead and call our police department for assistance. It's very good, very good yeah. So under what circumstances would a spill be either so severe or large that it's something that you say this is beyond the scope of our practice and we need to do what you were talking about. So if it's beyond the scope of the lab personnel that's what we're talking about. That would be something like if they dropped us a small bottle of something that was poison immolation hazard something's acutely toxic by inhalation that is something that they are not gonna want to deal with they would want to clear the area. Make sure everyone knows that there's been a spill and go ahead and call our Police Department to dispatch you Environmental Health and Safety crew to come on-site.

Another common chemical if you are working with mercury will say in the mercury has broken on a heated surface mercury is a very toxic vapor. So the key thing there would be if they can safely turn off the heating appliance any vacate the premises contact again the Police Department to notify DHS that there's been a spill of mercury. That way we know to come on scene to know that we can't just walk in we've got to let that device cool down sure before because the vapors are probably in the area. And DHS is Department environmental health and safety here on this campus. Yes. Or it may be in a workplace setting it would be this the Safety Department within an organization or whomever has been targeted as the authority to know what to do in those circumstances to take steps.

So what other considerations with regard to spill cleanup do you think people should be aware of and taking note of as they're making their own plans? Well that the one thing is to make sure like I said they know the exact location of the spill kit. Know where their first-aid kit kit is. Their safety shower and their eye wash to know where the phone is. One of the things that we try to make sure our folks know that they really need to know is the building address. In the event that there's an injury. If the spill involves maybe somebody was injured maybe a piece of glass broke or maybe they became unconscious, well then right there we're going to the large scenario and calling 9-1-1 right away so the emergency help people can come on scene to treat the injury.

And then do you do like pre pant plans with your local fire department. So they kind of know what to expect if they're going to be responding. We do that probably on an annual basis. We'll get together the fire department personnel will come through our labs and to know what we have in our labs. So they know how to protect themselves in the event. And typically if there is a response to the University the fire department personnel when they're dispatched DHS is also on scene with the lab personnel to make sure they get the information they need to before they go into the situation. Very good, well thank you so much I really appreciate sharing this information with us today. If you have a lab in your facility ensure that you're following some of these steps as you're working on your plans for spill cleanup.

I hope you gained a safety skill today. If you know someone who needs this go ahead and pass it on.

Safety is everyone's business.