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Hazardous Material Spill

Hazardous Material Spill

While many hazardous material spills can be prevented, they can still happen despite your best efforts. It is important to know what to do in the event of a spill.

In the event of a chemical spill:

  • If life-threatening:
    • Call 9-911 (from a campus phone) or 9-1-1 from any other telephone to request Hazardous Material (Haz Mat) services.
  • If immediate assistance is required:
    • Call X5911 from a campus phone or (281) 290-5911 from any telephone for LSCS Police Dispatch. The LSCS Police Dispatch will alert the appropriate resource.
  • If not an emergency:
    • Contact Facilities by submitting a work request using the form at TMA iService Desk.Trained personnel are available for consultation and cleanup.

Determining if a waste is a "hazardous waste" can be difficult. The best policy is to assume all chemicals must be handled as hazardous waste and can only be disposed of by contacting the campus Facilities Department. Strict sewer, air emissions and landfill regulations require that hazardous waste is not drain disposed, evaporated in fume hoods, or disposed of in the normal trash. Contact the campus Facilities Department for help in classifying waste as hazardous or non-hazardous.

Chemical Spill Procedures

  • Alert people in the immediate area of the spill.
  • Determine the chemical nature of the spill and check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
  • If the material is highly toxic or hazardous, call X9-911 from a campus phone or 9-1-1 from any phone. Follow-up with a call to X5911 (from a campus phone) or (281) 290-5911 to notify LSCS Police Dispatch.
  • If a volatile, toxic or flammable material is spilled, immediately warn everyone to evacuate the area, and turn off all electrical and spark producing equipment if possible.
  • ONLY if you are trained to use a fire extinguisher and if applicable use a fire extinguisher to extinguish any flames,

Small Spills (usually less than 1 liter of material):

  • If it is your laboratory policy and you have been trained in spill clean-up procedures, your laboratory can proceed to clean up the spill. The spill has to be in your lab or shop area for you to clean it up without the assistance of LSCS Facilities Personnel.
  • If a spill occurs in a common area or corridor, you must contact the campus Facilities Department for assistance.
  • Put up signs or barrier tape to prevent access to the area.
  • Wear protective equipment, including respirator, safety goggles and gloves.
  • Dike the spill by surrounding the area with absorbent materials such as paper towels, spill control pillows, vermiculite, sand or absorbent pads for organic liquids (where applicable).
  • Proceed to clean up the spill using the same materials.
  • Neutralize acids with sodium bicarbonate and bases with citric acid.
  • After cleanup, all materials, including paper towels used in the cleanup, must be disposed of as Hazardous Waste.
  • Double bag the waste or more as needed. Label the waste bags using a Hazardous Waste Online Waste Tag.
  • Wash the affected surface with soap and water and clean up by ordinary means.
  • Call the campus Facilities Department to schedule a pick-up.

Large Spills (usually more than 1 liter of material):

Mercury Spill Cleanup

Mercury is a very toxic chemical. Prolonged exposure to mercury vapor will cause damage to the human nervous system.
It is important to clean up all mercury spills completely.  For more information on chemical spills, see the Laboratory Chemical Spill Procedures in the LSCS Safety Manual.

  • It is recommended that the campus Facilities Department is called to clean up a mercury spill. They have trained personnel with equipment to handle the clean-up of mercury. They also have access to mercury detection equipment to ensure that the mercury spill has been cleaned properly.
  • If a mercury spill is on a porous surface, such as a rug or cloth chair, do not attempt to clean up. Contact the campus Facilities Department for assistance.
  • In the case of a small mercury spill in your laboratory, such as a broken thermometer, you may clean the spill yourself if you have been trained and its is your laboratory policy. Follow the clean-up procedure below.

In the Event of a Mercury Spill NEVER:

  • Walk around an area that is contaminated with mercury.  Mercury is easily spread and the spill area may not be easily identified.  Contaminated clothing can also spread mercury around.
  • Use an ordinary vacuum cleaner to clean up mercury. The vacuum will put mercury vapor into the air and increase exposure. The vacuum cleaner will be contaminated and will have to be disposed of as hazardous waste.
  • Use a broom to clean up mercury. It will break the mercury into smaller droplets and spread them.
  • Wash mercury-contaminated items in a washing machine. Mercury may contaminate the machine and pollute the water system.

If a Mercury Thermometer Breaks in Your Laboratory:

Initial Steps

  1. Keep everyone away from the area to prevent the spread of contamination.
  2. Before sending anyone out of the area, check for mercury on clothing and the bottom of shoes.
  3. If mercury is visible on any article of clothing or shoes, remove the articles from the person and keep the articles in the area.
  4. If the person has walked through the spill area and mercury is not visible, the individual must stay in the area until monitoring can be performed by Facilities Personnel.
  5. Close any doors that may help to isolate the area as long as you can do so without walking through the spill.
  6. If you or any other person has come in contact with the mercury or suspect that you have been contaminated, do not leave the area so you do not spread the contamination.
  • Decontaminating an Exposed Person: call X9-911 (from a campus phone) or 9-1-1 (from any phone). Follow-up with a call to X5911 (from a campus phone) or (281) 290-5911 to notify LSCS Police Dispatch.

Clean-up Procedure:

  1. If you have been trained and it is your laboratory policy to clean small mercury spills (usually the quantity found in a thermometer or less), you can proceed to clean up the spill.
  2. The spill must be in your lab or shop area for you to clean it up on your own.
  3. You must contact the campus Facilities Department for assistance if the spill occurs in a common area, corridor, or if the amount of mercury spilled is larger than is typically found in a thermometer.
  4. Put on rubber, nitrile, or latex gloves.
  5. Put on disposable, non-porous shoe covers (plastic bags may work for this).
  6. Perform a visual inspection to determine the extent of the contamination.
  7. Use a flashlight to look for mercury beads. Shine the flashlight at many low, different angles on the spill area. The light will reflect off of the shiny mercury beads to make it easier to see them. Start at least one foot behind where you believe the contamination starts. If you cannot find the mercury, contact the campus Facilities Department for assistance.
  8. Contain the mercury spill to as small of an area as possible.
  9. Prevent mercury beads from spreading into drains, cracks or crevices, on to sloped or porous surfaces, or any other inaccessible areas.
  10. Work from the outside of the spill area to the center of the spill area.
  11. Push the mercury beads together with a 3 X 5 index card or stiff paper to form larger droplets. Mercury beads roll very quickly, so be careful!
  12. Push the mercury beads into a plastic dustpan or use a pipette to pick up the beads. You can also use tape to pick up the little beads of mercury, but be careful because they might not always stick.
  13. Collect all mercury into a sealable plastic bag.
  14. If the mercury spill involves glass pieces, such as from a glass thermometer, pick up the glass pieces with care, as they may be sharp.
  15. Place all broken glass on a small paper towel. Fold up the paper towel and place it in the same sealable plastic bag as the mercury droplets.
  16. When you think you have picked up all of the mercury, shine a flashlight (at many different, low angles) on the area to help find any remaining mercury beads or glass. The light will reflect off the shiny mercury beads and glass.
  17. Contact the campus Facilities Department for mercury vapor monitoring to ensure that there is no further contamination.
  18. Remove shoe covers and gloves and place into waste bag.
  19. Seal the bag and place it into a second plastic bag. Also, seal the outer bag.
  20. Create and affix a hazardous waste tag to the outer bag as instructed by the Facilities Department. Facilities personnel will advise what actions to take with the hazardous waste.
  21. Inspect your shoes and clothing for mercury before exiting the area.
  22. After completing the mercury clean up, thoroughly wash your hands.
  23. If other parts of your body may have come in contact with mercury, shower or bathe.

Mercury Spill Kit Recommendations

  1. 4-5 ziplock-type bags (1-gallon size)
  2. 4-5 trash bags (30-gallon size)
  3. At least 6 pairs of rubber, nitrile, or latex gloves
  4. Paper towels
  5. 3 X 5 index cards or stiff paper
  6. Duct tape
  7. Flashlight with spare batteries
  8. Non-porous shoe covers
  9. Plastic dust pan or plastic tray
  10. Emergency contact information
    1. LSCS Police Dispatch: X5911 [from a campus phone] or (281) 290-5911 [from any phone]
    2. Campus Facilities Department:
    3. Southeast Texas Poison Control Center: 1-800-222-1222.

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