Response to a chemical spill must occur at several levels. For laboratory workers, some spills must be cleaned-up at the first level — theirs. Other spills must be managed by Risk Management & Safety (RMS). The first question which must be answered is: when is a spill really a spill?
A spill is defined as a material out of control. In a practical sense, the quantity of material is not important. The essential issue is whether the hazards, the location, and the quantity cause the situation to be beyond the control of the laboratory worker.
Experience provides some guidelines for deciding whether a spill should be cleaned-up by laboratory personnel or by spill response personnel. For convenience and safety, a minimum quantity beyond which all spills of hazardous materials must be reported has been established. Policy states that all spills greater than one quart (one liter) must be reported to RMS at 702-895-4226. While this may seem overly stringent to some, experience indicates that over-reporting is preferable to under-reporting.
In addition to the minimum quantity, several other spills must be reported, regardless of the quantity (beyond de minimis).
- All spills of extremely flammable materials (flash point less than 20°F) must be reported.
- All spills of extremely toxic materials (5 mg/kg LD50) must be reported.
- All mercury spills must be reported.
- All personal contaminations must be reported.
- All leaking containers must be reported.
- All uncontrolled compressed gas releases must be reported.
Personnel are responsible to have procedures for spills which are below the reportable level. These procedures are explained below.