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Health & Safety Manual - Chemical Hygiene Plan

1.11 Emergency Procedures

1.11.1 Chemical Spills
1.11.2 Chemical Spill Kit
1.11.3 Emergency Drench Equipment
1.11.4 Accidents, Injuries and Medical Emergencies
1.11.5 Fire  

1.11.1 Chemical Spills
Laboratory personnel must know what procedures to follow in the event of a chemical release. They must know how to report the incident and clean up the spill, if possible.  Inappropriate actions or inaction by personnel can delay appropriate response activities and worsen the situation. Proper emergency response depends upon knowledge of the chemicals present in the lab. For this reason, laboratories at the Columbia University Medical Center are required to submit a complete inventory of all the hazardous chemicals in their laboratories. Inventories must be reviewed annually and/or whenever new chemicals are acquired. At the Morningside campus, online inventories are maintained centrally through the ChemTracker System

Chemical spills must be cleaned up promptly, efficiently, and properly. The immediate cleanup of a spill limits exposure to toxic materials prevents possible slips and falls, as well as fire and explosions.

Spills are classified as manageable or unmanageable. Manageable spills are spills that do not spread rapidly, do not seriously endanger people or the environment, and can be managed safely by lab personnel familiar with the hazardous properties of the chemical without the assistance of EH&S personnel. All other spills are considered unmanageable. See the EH&S guidelines for response to Chemical Spills and Explosions at http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/chemspill.html.

Manageable Spills
In the event of a manageable spill, the following procedure must be followed:

  • Alert people in the immediate area. Avoid breathing vapors and quickly determine the identity and quantity of the spilled material.
  • Consult the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for hazardous properties, incompatibilities, and don appropriate PPE (such as safety glasses, gloves, long sleeve lab coat).
  • If the spill involves a flammable liquid, turn off all ignition and heat sources.
  • If the spill involves finely divided solids such nitrates, permanganates, perchlorates, they must not be allowed to come in contact with combustible materials such as wood and paper, or reducing agents. Use a scoop or dustpan and hand broom to collect finely divided solids in a plastic bag. Use an appropriate solvent to clean up residues.
  • Attend to persons contaminated by chemicals by adhering to the instructions in 1.7.
  • Confine spill to small area. Absorb and neutralize spill with appropriate material and create a dam around the perimeter. Use spill kit materials and components appropriate for the spilled material.  Collect residue, place in a container, and dispose as hazardous waste through EH&S.
  • Clean spill area with soap and water. Notify the Laboratory Supervisor and/or the Principal Investigator. EH&S must also be notified of any release of any chemicals in the laboratory, even if it is deemed manageable.  Telephone numbers to call in emergencies are posted on telephones in every laboratory and on the Laboratory Signage at the entrance to each lab.

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Unmanageable Spills
In the event of an unmanageable spill, the following procedure must be followed:

  • Do not attempt to clean up unmanageable spills.
  • If spill involves a flammable liquid, turn off ignition and heat sources, if you can do this safely.
  • Hold your breath and leave the spill area immediately.
  • Alert people in the immediate area and post warning signs to inform others of hazard.
  • Evacuate personnel and close doors leading to affected area. Keep personnel away from affected area until EH&S can evaluate the situation.
  • Call EH&S and Public Safety for assistance and notify Lab Supervisor and PI.
  • Determine the identity and quantity of material that has been spilled and consultSDS for hazardous properties, incompatibilities.
  • Attend to persons contaminated by chemicals by adhering to the instructions in 1.7.
  • After-hour spills should be immediately reported to Public Safety, which will contact EH&S for instructions. Be prepared to give the chemical name, volume spilled, location (building and room), and any other pertinent information.
  • Ensure a person knowledgeable of the incident is available to provide information to emergency personnel.

1.11.2 Chemical Spill Kit 
All Columbia University laboratories shall have access to a chemical spill control kit, capable of controlling a spill of any hazardous material in the lab. A spill kit can be assembled by the laboratory and include an organized collection of absorbent pads, corrosive neutralizers, handheld broom and dustpan and other equipment suitable for addressing manageable laboratory spills or a laboratory can purchase a commercially available spill kit from laboratory supply company. The goal is for each laboratory to have immediate access to a spill kit for the hazardous substances used or stored in the laboratory.  All laboratory personnel must be familiar with the spill kit storage location and use of the spill kit.

1.11.3 Emergency Drench Equipment
Eye-Face Wash/Drench Hose - Laboratories where hazardous substances are used or stored shall be equipped with an eye-face wash/drench hose as detailed in the Columbia University Guidelines for Laboratory Design.  The devices are intended to provide a continuous stream of clean, flushing fluid to rinse the eyes or body in the event of a hazardous substance exposure. Laboratory personnel shall perform a weekly test by activating the device for a period long enough to verify operation and ensure that clean flushing fluid is available.

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Overhead Emergency Shower - Laboratories where hazardous substances are used or stored shall be equipped with an overhead emergency shower as detailed in the Columbia University Guidelines for Laboratory Design.  The devices are intended to provide a continuous stream of clean, flushing fluid to rinse the body in the event of a hazardous substance exposure. Facilities Operations shall perform an annual test by activating the device for a period long enough to verify operation and ensure that clean flushing fluid is available.

1.11.4 Accidents, Injuries and Medical Emergencies
Accidents, injuries and medical emergencies in and around the laboratory require immediate attention.  Such emergencies must be reported immediately to the campus’ appropriate emergency contact and the laboratory supervisor and/or PI.  All emergencies involving personal injury must be reported using the Columbia University Accident Report Form

When hazardous substances are involved in an accident, injury of medical emergency, EH&S must be contacted immediately.  EH&S can advise on the best approaches to immediate action and measures to avoid the spread or cross-contamination of hazardous materials. Information about the hazardous substance(s) should be readily available (i.e., name, concentration, quantity, etc) and a SDS should accompany any injured personnel when seeking medical assistance.

1.11.5 Fire
Research laboratories differ from other work environments in that they usually contain a variety of fire hazards. Laboratories are equipped with multi‑purpose, dry chemical (ABC) or CO2 extinguishers, which can be used on all types of fires with the exception of reactive metals, which must use extinguishing agents suitable for the particular metal. Laboratory workers are trained by EH&S in the RACE and PASS procedures. Refer to the Fire Safety Manual for additional information.   

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