8.9 Spills

Each laboratory must have appropriate equipment and materials and develop procedures for dealing with spills.  Spill procedure charts are available from EHS and should be displayed in a prominent position in the laboratory and also included with the spill kit.  Each laboratory should have a spill kit which is clearly labeled; it is recommended that a sign be posted indicating where the kit is located (such as with an arrow) if the kit is placed up on a shelf or under a cabinet for example.  A basic spill kit could include the following, depending on the materials/chemicals used in the laboratory:

  • Protective clothing, e.g., heavy-duty rubber gloves, goggles;
  • Scoops and/or autoclavable dustpan;
  • Forceps for picking up broken glass;
  • Sponges and paper towels;
  • Concentrated disinfectant (chlorine bleach or Wescodyne);
  • Soda ash (sodium carbonate, Na2CO3) or sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) to neutralize acids;
  • Sand to cover an alkali spill;
  • Neutralizers for formaldehyde and/or solvents;
  • Nonflammable detergent; and a
  • Biohazard bag.

The potential health risk of the spilled agent must be considered.  For example, with Mycobacterium tuberculosis the risk of exposure from the spill of a small quantity might be many times that of a much larger spill of E. coli.  A minimally biohazardous material (BSL1 or RG1 agent) spilled without generating significant aerosols may be cleaned up with a paper towel soaked in an effective decontaminating agent.  A spill of a large volume with generation of aerosols will require personnel to wear protective clothing and possibly respiratory protection, depending on the biological agents involved.