Preparing for Potential Spills

Prompt response to a spill of hazardous material is of utmost importance to avoid health problems and to limit damage to facilities and equipment. With appropriate clean-up materials readily available, researchers can clean-up the spill quickly before any major damage occurs. Be aware that the fire department does NOT provide any clean-up material unless the HazMat truck is brought which will take a considerable amount of time. 

Be prepared for the worst case scenario. Identify the hazard classes (e.g. corrosives, flammables, biological material) and the largest container of each hazard class in the lab. Purchase sufficient clean-up material for the hazards and their volumes identified (e.g. a 2.5 L bottle of concentrated acid requires at least 3 kg of sodium bicarbonate to neutralize). Also consider hazardous material present in equipment that could break, such as mercury in thermometers or gauges.

Assemble a spill kit containing appropriate and sufficient clean-up material, personal protective equipment for the hazards, tools to facilitate clean-up, and containers or bags to collect the spilled material. Place the spill kit in an easily accessible and well-marked location near the hazard and clearly label it.

Assembling a spill-kit specifically for the hazards in a lab is often more cost effective than purchasing a pre-packaged universal spill kit from outside vendors. The table below lists spill kit items for commonly found hazards in laboratories on campus:

Biological Spill Kit

Chemical/Radioactive Spill Kit

Broom and dustpan

Broom and dustpan

Nitrile or latex gloves

Chemical resistant  gloves

Safety glasses

Safety glasses or goggles

Paper towels

Universal spill pads or inert, loose sorbents

Disinfectant (bleach)

Acid neutralizer (e.g. sodium bicarbonate)

Disinfectant spray bottle

Base neutralizer (e.g. citric acid, tartaric acid or sodium bisulfate)


Hg Absorb™ for mercury

Biohazard bags

Sturdy zippered plastic bags or container with lid

Container for storage of kit materials

Container for storage of kit materials

All lab personnel must be familiar with the location, contents, use and limitations of the spill kit. Spill response procedures should be included in the groups Laboratory Safety Plan and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Documents from the DRS Safety Library can assist in the development of spill procedures for the group’s hazards.

The sponge is completely ineffective at handling the sulfuric acid. It begins to dissolve instantly, and again illustrates the importance of having the correct materials available to handle a spill.

For further information with more detailed spill clean-up procedures, see the following pages:

Biological Material Spill

Chemical Spill

Radiological Material Spill

Emergency Eyewashes and Showers

Be familiar with campus requirements regarding emergency eyewashes and showers, as well as their locations in the lab. Eyewashes should be activated weekly to verify operation and ensure flushing fluid is available. More information regarding emergency eyewashes and showers is available here.


Fire extinguishers must be appropriate for the hazards in the area and must be readily accessible. Monthly visual inspections are required per OSHA Fire Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.157. Fire extinguisher training is available here. Be familiar with the location of fire alarm pull stations in case the area needs to be evacuated.

Building Emergency Action Plan (BEAP)

A Building Emergency Action Plan (BEAP) is a document designed to assist building occupants with their emergency planning and response efforts. Ask your supervisor for your building’s BEAP plan. Training on the BEAP plan is required. Be aware of the contents of your BEAP plan, including your building’s evacuation plans and routes, Evacuation Assembly Area, Storm Refuge Areas, and shelter-in-place procedures. More information about Building Emergency Action Plans is available here.

    Last Updated: 4/9/2020