No matter how careful you are with your laboratory equipment, spills are inevitable. There are steps you can take to clean the spill safely. However, there are times where you will need professional lab decontamination services.

When it comes to lab safety, you can never be too educated or prepared. At S.E.P.S., we place the highest value on laboratory staff being trained and equipped to handle potentially dangerous situations. Therefore, our certification and decontamination services are in place to guarantee a safe, clean and productive work environment.

Many labs regularly handle chemicals on a daily basis. Not surprisingly, many of those chemicals are likely harsh, abrasive or toxic. Luckily, educated lab personnel can safely clean up the majority of chemical spills. Should a chemical spill occur in your lab, it’s critical that you’re aware of the steps to take to clean the spill safely. Below, you’ll find the eight steps to managing chemical spills.

1. Be Prepared

This is the first and most important step to safely handling chemical spills. Essentially, with any chemicals present in the lab, the Material Safety Data Sheet (SDS) will have critical information.

The SDS will list the chemical’s health hazards, the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), first aid, clean up and emergency procedures. Staff should be able to view or access all of the predetermined safety procedures.

In addition, a critical part of preparation is training. Each member of staff should know how to handle and store any chemicals used in the lab. Additionally, they should know how to safely handle equipment as well as manage chemical spills.

The lab should also have a complete spill kit on hand. The spill kit should contain the necessary PPE and items to clean spills. It should contain disposal bags, PPE, neutralizers and absorbents.

2. Assessment

Chemical spills vary in severity. Therefore, a proper assessment of a chemical spill involves identification of the chemical, the amount spilled, the location of the spill and the area’s ventilation.

A chemical spill can be classified as minor or major. A minor spill is when the chemical doesn’t pose an immediate risk to health and doesn’t involve contamination to the body. Most of the chemical spills that occur in labs are minor and can be cleaned by lab personnel.

A major spill describes chemicals that are hazardous and pose a risk to health, or have a high risk of fire and explosion. Therefore, the identification by lab safety symbols will determine the appropriate response required to contain the spill.

3. Communication

It’s critical during a spill to remain calm. First, all lab personnel should leave the affected area while you decide the necessary steps.

In the event of a minor spill, lab personnel in the immediate area should be notified. Next, the manager, safety officer, safety team or emergency services should be alerted right away.

In the unlikely event of a major spill, the lab should immediately evacuate. Emergency services should be notified at once. If someone was affected, locate the nearest safety shower or emergency eyewash. After that, contaminated clothing should be removed at once, and all areas of the body generously flushed with water.

4. Containment

Before attempting any chemical spill clean up, personnel must be wearing the appropriate PPE like gloves, goggles and lab coats.

Identify and eliminate the source of the spill to prevent further spreading of the chemicals. Using absorbent materials, make a barrier at the edges of the spill. Additionally, if the substance is toxic or hazardous, close the lab doors and increase the lab’s ventilation at once.

5. Clean Up

Lab spill kits can handle most chemical spills. However, the necessary clean up varies depending on the substance in question.

Consult the Material Safety Data Sheet to find recommended clean up procedures. Acids, biological specimens, flammable liquids, mercury, and radioactive agents all have specific, regimented clean up recommendations. Consult each material’s instructions to discern the best way to manage the spill.

6. Disposal

Be sure to adequately dispose of the materials used to clean the spill. First, place the absorbents into a plastic bucket or other container. Double-bag any liquid or powder residue.

Afterwards, the wastes should be placed in the appropriate hazard waste bin. Then separate anything used to clean chemical spills from normal trash. Label each container with hazardous materials. Include descriptions of what’s inside.

7. Documentation

After any kind of lab mishap (spills included), workers should always make sure they properly document the event. Moreover, all of the lab’s supervisors and administrators should be notified at once. Most importantly, be sure to document how to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

8. Decontamination

With most lab chemical spills, regular cleaning products will be able to properly decontaminate. There are special detergents available that provide labs with a higher degree of decontamination.

However, in a laboratory, some additional measures are required to keep personnel safe and the lab running efficiently. Professional decontamination services from S.E.P.S. can be brought in to decontaminate and certify to the highest standards.

Accidents in the laboratory. Scientists spilled test tube with infected blood