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. Written protocols can help train personnel in the correct spill response procedures.


Last Update: 7/8/2015