Chemical Incident and Emergency Response

In most cases, small spills are best handled by laboratory workers, as long as proper precautions are taken, as they are more likely to be familiar with the material’s hazardous characteristics and can usually respond more quickly than outside help. All lab members should be trained on the hazards associated with the particular chemicals used in the lab, be trained on proper response procedures in the event of a spill, wear proper protective equipment, and have access to spill response supplies. 

Larger spills or those involving particularly hazardous substances may require assistance from EHS. If there are questions about proper spill response techniques, call EHS at 410-706-7055. After hours, dial campus police at 711 or 410-706-3333.

Please see Basic Steps for Emergency and Spill Response in the Chemical Hygiene Plan.

After the spill has been suitably addressed, review the potential causes of the spill.

Work practices that can prevent accidental spills include the following:

  • Avoid overfilling containers.
  • Use pumps or other devices to transfer liquids, particularly from unwieldy or large containers, instead of pouring directly.
  • Reduce clutter in the lab and eliminate tripping hazards on the floor.
  • Ensure chemicals are stored appropriately on sturdy surfaces, away from the edge of shelves to prevent falling.
  • Do not stack bottles on top of one another.
  • Perform regular inspections of valves and tubing to identify leaks before they get out of hand.

Hazardous Material Release

Certain types of spills may constitute a hazardous material release if the spill poses a risk to the environment and the amount released is above a certain quantity, as determined by the EPA. These materials may be chemical, biological, or radioactive. Individuals who discover a hazardous material release shall take the following steps:

  • If possible, isolate the spill. In a laboratory, this can be done by closing the door to the laboratory.
  • If life-threatening or serious injuries are involved, activate the manual fire alarm pull station and contact University Police at 711 or 410-706-3333.
  • If the release is not life-threatening, evacuate to a safe area and contact University Police at 711 or 410-706-3333.
  • If you can do so safely, note what was released, its location, and the amount released.
  • For more information on chemical spill cleanup procedures, please refer to the Chemical Hygiene Plan.