What to Do During a Toxic Spill

Every year, there are 340 million occupational accidents around the world. While many of them are due to poor working conditions, there are still a good number of accidents that happen out of pure chance.

Accidents can happen at any time, which is why you should be prepared for anything, including a toxic spill.

If you don’t know how to handle one at your workplace, then this is the perfect time to learn. Here’s what to do during a chemical spill.

What to Do for Toxic Spills in Labs

Depending on your workplace and the nature of your work, you might have a biosafety cabinet (BSC) that you perform work in. In this case, it can be a little easier to take care of any chemical spills that happen.

However, spills can happen both inside and outside your BSC. Here’s what to do in either situation.

Cleaning up a Toxic Spill in a BSC

First of all, don’t turn off your BSC. Keep it running, as it can help remove any resulting chemical gases.

If you can, use nearby tools (such as tweezers or forceps) to remove any broken bits of glass. Don’t try to wipe the broken glass up, as this might cause injuries to your hands. Put the broken pieces of glass in the appropriate sharps container in your lab.

Then, you should cover up the spill with paper towels. Grab disinfectant and pour (don’t spray!) it all over the contaminated surface. Pour from the outside and move inward as you pour.

After you’ve waited the appropriate amount of time for the disinfectant to work, wipe up the spillage. Repeat the disinfectant process a few times and then put contaminated materials into the lab’s biohazardous waste containers.

Cleaning up a Toxic Spill Outside of a BSC

The first thing you should do is section off the spillage area so no one accidentally happens upon it. If there are resulting gases or aerosols, you need to leave the area be until it all settles.

Let your lab supervisor and others in the lab know about the spill. Even if you’re familiar with your lab’s procedure for toxic spill cleanup, you should still take a look at the procedure and get all the materials needed.

Put on personal protective equipment (PPE) and then cover the spill with paper towels. From this point forward, you can follow the same procedure as you would for a toxic spill inside of a BSC. Make sure you dispose of things in the appropriate containers.

Cleaning up a Toxic Spill in a Centrifuge

Unfortunately, spills can occur inside a centrifuge. If this happens in your lab, here’s what to do.

Section off the area and wait until aerosols and gases have settled (about 10 minutes). In this time, you should notify all lab personnel (including your supervisor) about the spill.

Put on PPE and then proceed to remove the rotor from the centrifuge. Now place it inside the BSC.

Follow the same procedure for applying disinfectant from the previous sections. For the inside of the centrifuge, you can also follow the same steps for cleaning up a toxic spill outside of a BSC.

At the end, dispose of everything in the appropriate containers.

General Steps to Take for a Toxic Spill in a Workplace

Labs aren’t the only place where people deal with toxic substances. While there are a variety of different workplaces and scenarios, there are too many for us to cover in detail. Instead, here are the general steps you should take should you experience a toxic spill.

Notify Everyone Working in the Area

The first thing you should do is to notify everyone in the area about the toxic spill. This includes your supervisor, who can take control of the situation. Depending on how bad it is, they might require that everyone evacuate the area or even call 911.

Should you need to call 911, you need to tell the dispatcher exactly what toxic substance was spilled and how much. That way, first responders know what they’re dealing with when they arrive. It might be helpful to assign someone to help these first responders so they can navigate your workplace as quickly as possible.

Take Action for Those Injured or Contaminated

If anyone’s been injured or contaminated, you need to help them move to a safe place. You might have to don PPE before doing so; that way, you don’t become injured or contaminated yourself.

For some chemicals, you’ll need to flush the contaminated areas with water. Check the MSDS sheet for the spilled chemical to make sure.

Control and/or Contain the Spill

Shut down sources of heat and ignition, and ventilate the area as best as you can. The exception is if there are fumes; you should evacuate and close all windows and doors to contain these fumes.

If possible, contain the spill by applying a neutralizer or absorbing it with paper towels or other absorbent material. Like in the lab, start from the outside and work your way in.

Clean up the Spill

Use the appropriate disinfectant and cleaning material as listed in the MSDS sheet. While this will suffice in the present, you might need to have a professional hazmat team come in to take care of the spill properly.

Click here to see what a hazmat team can do for you.

Know What to Do if You Have a Toxic Spill

It’s unfortunate, but there’s always going to be the possibility of having a toxic spill at work. Because of this, you should know exactly what to do to mitigate risk to your employees and damage to your business.

Hopefully, after you’ve read this article, you now have a good grasp of what to do should you find yourself in this type of emergency. That way, you’ll feel more confident getting things cleaned up efficiently and safely.

If you found this article on toxic spill cleanup helpful, then please take a look at the rest of our blog for more useful information.