Common chemicals can create a lot of chaos. Roughly 65,000 people died due to uncontrolled chemical releases between 2009 and 2018.
Chemicals are essential to the sciences and to many industries. You can’t avoid them. But you can’t go without a chemical spill preparedness plan either.
How can you prevent a spill from occurring through simple measures? What should your very first response be? When should you evacuate, and when should you call first responders?
Answer these questions and you can prevent yourself or your workers from being injured by common chemicals. Here is your quick guide.
Store Your Chemicals
Storing chemicals in their proper containers is the best way to avoid spills. Figure out the particular components of the chemicals you are using. Acids will dissolve metals, while oil and similar materials will eat at plastic.
Put your chemicals in containers with more than enough room to store them. This prevents them from mixing together or falling on top of each other.
Some materials need to go in a refrigerator. Evaluate what temperature they need to be at and buy a refrigerator large enough to hold everything. Spread out your materials on different shelves so they don’t knock into each other.
If you have waste, put the waste in a secure location. Shelves are okay, but the shelves should be sturdy and accessible. Put signs leading up to the location so people know where the waste is.
Remember to talk about disaster preparedness with anyone you are working with. Go through different situations and evaluate how you can respond to them. Stay prepared at all times so you don’t get caught off-guard.
Put On Protective Equipment
Access to protective equipment is a critical component of lab safety. Eye goggles, respirators, coats, and gloves should be accessible to anyone in your lab.
Everyone in the lab should wear shoes with closed toes. Long hair should be tied or tucked back. Shirts should have long sleeves and pants should have long legs that go down to the ankles.
As soon as a spill occurs, everyone should put on their protective equipment. Most chemicals will release toxic or noxious vapors that can harm the respiratory system. The people closest to the spill should put on gloves and goggles.
Confine the Spill
Your first priority with a minor spill should be to confine it. Some chemicals will cause reactions if they grow too big or make contact with heat and electricity.
If a container fell over, make it upright. Put the lid on it and move it away from the spilled chemical.
For non-toxic substances, you may be able to use paper towels and water as cleaning supplies. You can then disinfect the surface where the chemical was with a cleaning spray.
But you should use absorbing supplies instead. A powder absorbent can remove oil, paint, and similar substances from a work surface.
Do not allow any chemical to enter into a drain, including in the sink. Use a dike to direct the material away from the sink and then put an absorbent on it.
If a toxic substance spills, you should evacuate the room right away. The same goes for any spill that results in an explosion, fire, or another dangerous scenario.
Everyone should leave through their closest exit. This may mean having to get out through a window or side door.
Keep calm as you are leading the evacuation. Direct everyone to their exits and ask them to avoid running or panicking. Secure the exits after you have left so anyone enters into the unsafe environment.
If there are laboratories or occupied rooms near you, you should ask the people there to evacuate. Explain what the situation is briefly and then ask them to leave.
Find a point that you can gather everyone near. This should be a place where you can stay safe if the emergency gets worse. Once you are there, you can treat anyone who has been injured.
Anyone who shows significant signs of toxic poisoning or has burns should receive medical assistance. Call 911, even if someone else has already done so. Tell the responder where you are, who needs help, and what injuries they have.
Make sure to tell them that a chemical spill is occurring. Firefighters need to don special protective equipment and get different tools in order to combat a chemical fire.
It will take time for first responders to arrive and bring the spill under control. Do not go near the area, let alone inside the building, until they say the scene is safe.
Once it is safe for people to enter the building, you should call an Emergency Chemical Spill Response team. They can contain chemicals that are continuing to spill. They can recover objects and give them to you, and they can clean up after a disaster.
Take some time to decompress from the spill. Then consider steps you can take to prevent another calamity from happening. Write them down and develop a formal plan so you avoid disasters.
What Your Preparedness Plan Should Include
You must develop a strong disaster preparedness plan. Be diligent when containing and throwing away your chemicals. Inform everyone in your lab about safety measures.
Put on protective equipment once a spill takes place. You can go to contain a small spill, but avoid using water.
Get out of your lab if the spill is dangerous. Inform others that they need to leave and then call 911. Wait until a spill response team neutralizes the remaining threats before returning.
Chemical spills are one disaster you can avoid. Stay safe and find out more by following our coverage.