Hazardous Materials Spills

Emergency Response Procedures: Chemical, Biohazardous and Radioactive Spills

In case of emergency, call X66911 from a Tufts campus phone. All emergency calls should go thorugh the University Police. Hazardous materials spills, medical emergencies, radioactive materials spills and thefts are examples of incidents that must be reported to the University Police.

The following identify procedures for handling various hazardous spill emergencies in the laboratory and workplace. Chemical spills include liquid and solid spills. Fuel spills include diesel and gasoline spills.

Injury or Illness

Employees must notify their immediate supervisor of an illness or injury related to exposure to hazardous materials. All injuries that may be work related must be reported. Supervisors are responsible for reporting any injuries or occupational illnesses to the Department of Risk Management and Insurance by completing the First Report of Injury form located on-line at http://publicsafety.tufts.edu/accident/.

Chemical Exposure to Skin:

  • Immediately flush with cool water for at least 15 minutes.
  • If there are no visible burns, remove all jewelry and soap area.
  • Seek medical attention if a reaction occurs or if there is any doubt about possible problems.

Chemical Exposure to Skin – Serious:

  • Remove all contaminated clothing.
  • Locate the nearest emergency shower and soak for at least 15 minutes.
  • Have someone contact the University Police x66911.
  • Seek immediate medical attention.

Chemicals in Eyes:

  • Irrigate eyes for at least 15 minutes with tempered water from emergency eyewash station.
  • Remove contact lenses if possible.
  • Notify the University Police x66911.
  • Seek immediate medical attention.

Smoke and Fumes:

Anyone overcome by smoke or fumes should be removed to fresh air. Never attempt to enter a location where potentially dangerous fumes might place you at risk. If someone is down, contact emergency personnel and let them enter. Seek medical attention for exposure as soon as possible.

Clothing or Laboratory Coat on Fire (Stop, Drop and Roll):

  • Extinguish burning clothing by using the drop and roll technique, douse with cold water or use emergency shower or fire blanket. If using a fire blanket, do not allow the person to remain standing.
  • Remove contaminated clothing if possible.
  • Cover injured person to prevent shock. Seek medical attention.

Chemical Spills

There is a wide range of chemicals present in the research laboratory. The safe clean up of a chemical spill requires some knowledge of the properties and hazards posed by the chemical, and any added dangers posed by the location of the spill. If you believe a spill is beyond your capacity to clean up, do not attempt to do so on your own, STOP and contact the University Police. Spill kits with instructions, absorbents, neutralizing agents if applicable, protective equipment, and sealable waste buckets should be present in each laboratory. Refer to MSDS.

Minor Spill:

A minor spill is characterized by all of the following criteria:

  • Is inside a laboratory and hasn’t spread outside the laboratory;
  • Did not result in a fire or explosion, nor presents a risk for a fire or explosion; and
  • Did not result in personnel requiring medical attention.

Minor Spill Clean Up:

  • Alert people in the immediate area of the spill.
  • Put on appropriate Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE), (gloves, protective eyewear, lab coat).
  • Contain the spill with spill pillows or absorbent material.
  • Place the absorbed spill material in secondary containment, such as the spill bucket. Label the container and notify Environmental Health & Safety to pick up container.
  • Completely clean area where spill occurred.
  • Dispose of contaminated PPE properly.

Major Spill:

A major spill is characterized by all of the following criteria:

  • Results in a fire or explosion, or presents a risk for a fire or explosion;
  • Results in personnel requiring medical attention;
  • Is not contained within a laboratory; or
  • Is characterized as a major spill by the Emergency Coordinator.

For a Major Spill or Leak:

  • Remove any injured or contaminated persons if you can do so safely.
  • Contact the University Police at x66911 and stand by in a safe location.
  • Remove all contaminated clothing, shoes etc. Use a safety shower if one is nearby. Seek medical attention if you have been exposed. Do not attempt to clean up a major spill on your own. Leave it to the experts!

Mercury spill:

  • Use a pipette or medicine dropper to pick up mercury droplets.
  • Do not use a commercial or domestic vacuum cleaner.
  • Cover the area of the spill with one of the following:
    • Sodium polysulfide solution or
    • Powdered sulfur or
    • Silver metal compounds
  • Clean up residue in a separate container for waste collection. Spill debris must be managed as hazardous chemical waste.
  • For specific clean-up information, contact Environmental Health & Safety.

Biological Spills

The release or spill of biohazardous material will require a different response based on several factors, including the actual agent and the associated risks, the amount of material spilled, type of spill and the location of the spill. The following guidelines are to provide a quick reference to employees involved in a response to a biohazardous spill. Each lab working with biohazardous material should have their own specific spill response procedure. Where applicable, consult with your supervisor to be sure you have received the specialized training for your area.

Spill Inside the Biosafety Cabinet

A spill or release inside a biosafety cabinet (BSC) does not pose a risk to others in the lab or to the environment. The BSC functions to contain the spill and protect people in the lab from exposure to the
agent. The primary concern with a release or spill inside a BSC is to decontaminate material inside the BSC, including the person’s hands and arms, any equipment located in the BSC and the surface of the BSC itself.

  • Leave the BSC turned on.
  • Person working in the BSC at the time of the spill should remove contaminated gloves, lab coat and sleeve covers if in use and dispose of them in the biohazardous waste container.
  • New Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including a lab coat, gloves and wrist covers, if needed, should be donned prior to placing arms and hands inside the cabinet.
  • Spray/wipe cabinet walls, work surfaces and equipment located in the BSC with an approved disinfectant. Large volumes of liquid should be flooded with the disinfectant. Be careful while pouring and do not create splashes. Allow the disinfectant to stand for 20-30 minutes (or longer if indicated based on the agent in use).
  • Soak up disinfectant/spill with paper towels or other absorbent material and dispose of in the biohazardous waste container.
  • All disposable material should be removed from the cabinet and placed into the biohazardous waste container.
  • Reusable material should be wiped down and either autoclaved or thoroughly chemically disinfected prior to reuse.
  • If material is spilled into a drain pan, be sure that disinfectant is poured into the pan and allowed to sit for a 20-30 minute contact time. This liquid should then be poured into a container and placed into the Satellite Accumulation Area in the lab for pick up and disposal as hazardous chemical waste.
  • Clean up person should remove PPE and dispose of into the biohazardous waste container.
  • Hands should be thoroughly washed and if clothes were contaminated, they should be changed prior to returning to regular work activities.
  • Notify the Biosafety Office and the University Police at x66911 if the spilled material flowed into the interior of the BSC. Extensive hood decontamination may be necessary and the BSC should not be used until clean up is completed.

Document spill and response procedures.

  • If exposure occurred, a report to the supervisor and to the Occupational Health and Biosafety Manager at x62919 should be completed and medical follow up should be done immediately. The University Police should also be notified at x66911.

Small Spill of BLS1 or BSL2 Material Outside of a BSC

  • Notify everyone in the lab that a biohazardous material spill has occurred and ask for assistance with the clean up.
  • If you are contaminated or potentially contaminated, do not leave the area. Ask a colleague to get PPE and the spill response kit for you. If you are not contaminated, obtain this material yourself and return to the spill area.
  • Put on PPE, including gloves, lab coat, disposable booties, and facial protection.
  • Cover spill with paper towels or other absorbent material.
  • Carefully pour disinfectant onto the spilled material and do not create any splashes.
  • Allow 20-30 minutes of contact time.
  • Discard cleanup material into a biohazardous waste container.
  • Use mechanical means to pick up broken glass.
  • Re-wipe area of spill with disinfectant and dispose of material into biohazardous waste container.
  • Remove PPE and dispose of into biohazardous waste container.
  • Hands should be thoroughly washed and if clothes were contaminated, they should be changed prior to returning to regular work activities.
  • Document spill and response procedures.
  • If exposure occurred, report to the supervisor and to the Biosafety Officer.

Large Spill of BSL1 and BSL2 Material Outside a BSC (>500 ml)

  • Follow same procedures as above for small spills of BSL1 and BSL2 material not in a BSC.

Human or Animal Blood

  • Follow same procedures as above for small spills of BSL1 and BSL2 material not in a BSC.

All Other Biohazardous Material

If agent involved in the spill is infectious via mucous membrane exposure or inhalation and the spill has resulted in the creation of aerosols, the lab should be evacuated for 30 minutes to allow the aerosols to settle.

  • Follow same procedures as above for small spills of BSL1 and BSL2 material not in a BSC.
  • All non-essential people in the lab should be told to leave immediately.

Biosafety Risk Groups

Risk group 1
BSL1: Agents that are not associated with disease in healthy human adults.

Risk group 2
BSL2: Agents that are associated with human disease which is rarely serious and for which preventive or therapeutic interventions are often available.

Risk group 3
BSL3: Agents that are associated with serious or lethal human diseases for which preventive or therapeutic interventions may be available.

Radioactive Material Spills

The amounts of radioactive material used at Tufts University are considered small, thus they will not deliver a significant radiation exposure to emergency responders. Medical assistance should not be withheld or delayed because of contamination of personnel by radioactive material.

The need to assess external radiation skin dose and the quantity of contamination that may exist from personnel contaminated with radioactive materials should be considered as part of the emergency response effort. The purpose is to ensure radioactive materials remain controlled at Tufts University, during transit to offsite locations (ambulatory transport), contamination results are accurately communicated, and radiation dose to skin tissue is promptly evaluated.

Minor Spills of Liquids and Solids
(Less than 1mCi in controlled areas not involving personnel contamination):

  • Notify persons in the area that a spill has occurred.
  • Prevent the spread of contamination by covering the spill with absorbent paper.
  • Clean up the spill using disposable gloves and absorbent paper. Carefully fold the absorbent paper with the clean side out and place in a plastic bag or transfer to a radioactive waste container.
  • Put contaminated gloves and any other contaminated disposable material in the bag.
  • Survey the area with a radiation survey meter set on the lowest range. Check the area around the spill for removable contamina- tion. Also check your hands, clothing and shoes for contamination. For tritium contamination, wipe tests must be made and measured in a liquid scintillation counter.
  • Report the incident to the Tufts University’s Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) at x63450, cell 617.308.3781.

Major Spills of Liquids and Solids (Powders)
(Greater than 1mCi, all spills in uncontrolled areas and spills involving personnel contamination):

  • Clear the area. Notify all persons not involved in the spill to vacate the room.
  • Prevent the spread of contamination by covering the spill with absorbent paper, but do not attempt to clean it up. To prevent the spread of contamination, limit the movement of all personnel who may be contaminated to another room or area outside the contaminated room where they will be evaluated.
  • Close the room and lock or otherwise secure the area to prevent entry.
  • Notify the University Police at x66911 and request notification of the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO).
  • Decontaminate personnel by removing contaminated clothing. Flush contaminated skin with lukewarm water and then wash with mild soap. The RSO is available to supervise the decontamination and spill cleanup. In advance of an emergency, determine the nearest exits to your location and the best route to follow.

Fuel and Oil Spills

In the event of a fuel (gasoline or diesel) or oil spill, the Tufts Spill Prevention and Countermeasure Control Plan identifies an Oil SPCC Coordinator in Boston, Grafton and Medford. These individuals may be reached through the University Police at x66911. The Oil SPCC Coordinator maintains spill kits to control the spread of these liquids. Any spill that can be controlled with a spill kit is minor. If the spill can’t be controlled with a spill kit, it is considered to be major and will require a response by an Oil/Fuel Spill Clean Up firm.