Emergency Response Information

1. Medical Emergencies

1.1. Life Threatening Injury or Situation

Call 911 (METCAD) for immediate response.

1.2. Non-life Threatening Injury or Situation

If you are unintentionally exposed to a hazardous material through an incident or accident in the laboratory, inform your Principal Investigator or Laboratory Manager and seek medical attention immediately. Early medical intervention can be critical, depending on the agent or hazard involved.

When you seek treatment, bring contact information for your Principal Investigator so he or she can be consulted for additional technical information regarding the agent or hazard. If your exposure involved a chemical, bring along the MSDS if one is available. However, if an MSDS cannot be located immediately, do not delay seeking medical attention.

Keep in mind that it is possible for you to be exposed to a hazard without being aware of an exposure incident. If you become ill and suspect that your illness is associated with a previously unknown exposure, seek medical attention immediately. Inform the physician about the hazards present in your laboratory.

Note: if you become ill and do not immediately associate your illness with hazards in the laboratory, it is still important to inform the physician about what you do in the laboratory and the hazards present. Even though a connection is unlikely, it is important for the treating physician to have a complete history on file.

Medical treatment options

Employees, including students that are compensated for their work, should seek treatment at the Occupational Medicine Departments identified by the Workers' Compensation program. Currently, these facilities are:

Weekdays from 8:00 am- 5:00 pm

Carle Occupational Medicine, 810 W. Anthony Drive, Urbana, IL 61801, (217) 383-3077

SAFEWORKS ILLINOIS, 1806 N. Market Street, Champaign, Illinois 61820, (217) 356-6150

After hours and weekends

Provena Covenant Hospital Emergency Department, 1400 W. Park Street, Urbana, IL 61801, (217) 337-2131

Carle Hospital Emergency Department, 602 W. University Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, (217) 383-3313

Students may seek basic medical care at the McKinley Health Center or with their personal physician.

Non-employees should seek treatment at the emergency room of either Carle Foundation Hospital or Provena Covenant Medical Center. Costs associated with most injuries incurred during unpaid activities are the responsibility of the individual and their health insurance.

1.3. Exposure to Potentially Infectious Material

If exposed to potentially infectious material through contact with skin, mucous membranes, or clothing, the exposed area should immediately be washed thoroughly and any contaminated clothing should be removed. The exposure should be reported to your supervisor. Medical follow-up is recommended if: (1) the exposure involves eyes, nose, or mouth, (2) skin is damaged at or near the exposure area, or (3) the exposure is through parenteral contact (needlestick, cut by sharp object etc). In such cases, a qualified healthcare professional should perform treatment and provide information regarding risks for infection.

2. Preparing for Spill Responses

Potential hazards should be evaluated and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) should be established before beginning work with hazardous materials. Written protocols for use in the event of a spill should be prepared and communicated to all personnel. Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), safety equipment, fire suppression equipment, containment, and clean-up materials should be readily available and all lab personnel should be familiar with their purpose, use, and limitations.

A pre-packaged spill kit should be purchased from an outside vendor or assembled by lab personnel. The location of the spill kit should be both clearly marked and highly visible. All personnel should know the location, contents, and limitations of the spill kit. The following items should be included:

Biological Spill KitChemical/Radioactive Spill KitMercury Spill Kit
Broom and dustpanHand broom (small)Hg Absorb™
Disinfectant spray bottleDustpanMercury sponge
Disinfectant (bleach)Nitrile glovesSturdy plastic bag
Paper towelsVent-free anti-fog goggles 
Safety glassesSpill pads or loose sorbents 
Tongs4-mil plastic zippered bags 
Nitrile or latex glovesUtility gloves 
Container (for storage of kit materials)Container (for storage of kit materials) 
Biohazard bags  

3. Spill Response Procedures

3.1. Biological Spill Response

Follow These Steps to Respond to a Biological Spill:

  1. Put on gloves, lab coat, and other PPE, as necessary. (Contaminated broken glass in spilled material should be removed with tongs or a broom and dustpan and discarded directly into a Sharps Disposal Container.)
  2. Apply a solution of freshly-made household bleach (1:10 bleach/water solution) or other approved chemical disinfectant to the affected area for an appropriate contact time. (Contact time is the amount of time the product must be in contact with a material to achieve decontamination. Ten minutes is the minimum contact time for bleach. Check labels for other products.)
  3. Absorb the spill completely by using enough absorbent materials to prevent dripping. (Material that is not saturated or dripping may be disposed of in the regular trash.)
  4. Re-apply disinfectant to decontaminate surface, again allowing adequate contact time.
  5. Decontaminate cleaning equipment and re-usable PPE and discard disposable PPE appropriately.
  6. Thoroughly wash hands after removing gloves.

3.2. Chemical Spill Response

3.2.1. COMPLICATED Chemical Spill Response

Call 911 (METCAD) immediately for all Complicated Spills. A spill is complicated if:

  • A person is injured; or
  • The identity of the chemical is unknown; or
  • Multiple chemicals are involved; or
  • The chemical is highly toxic, highly flammable, or highly reactive; or
  • The spill occurs in a public space, such as a corridor; or
  • The spill has the potential to spread to other parts of the building, such as through the ventilation system; or
  • The clean up procedures are not known or appropriate materials are not readily available; or
  • The clean up requires a respirator to be worn and no personnel have been fit-tested or officially trained to use a respirator (including cartridge respirators); or
  • The spill may endanger the environment, such as by reaching waterways or outside ground; or

Follow These Steps to Respond to a COMPLICATED Chemical Spill:

  1. Evacuate the affected area and alert others nearby to evacuate.
  2. If possible, close doors and windows as you evacuate the area (open windows can cause fumes and vapors to travel into the hallway).
  3. Contact METCAD (911) and provide the following information:
    • Name of the chemical spilled
    • Quantity of the chemical spilled
    • Location of the spill (building name and room number)
    • Any fire or explosions involved in the spill
    • Your name and phone number
  4. Arrange for someone to meet the emergency responders.
  5. Cordon off the area (secure with signs and warning tape, or post staff to prevent anyone from entering the affected area before the emergency responders arrive).

3.2.2. SIMPLE Chemical Spill Response

If the spill does not meet any of the conditions for a Complicated Spill, then it is defined as Simple.

Follow These Steps to Respond to a SIMPLE Chemical Spill:

  1. If possible, close doors and windows to prevent the spread of fumes and vapors.
  2. Turn off all potential sources of ignition (Bunsen burners, pumps, mechanical equipment not designed to be spark-proof, etc) if the spilled material is flammable (it may be necessary to turn off power from a remote circuit breaker).
  3. Put on gloves, lab coat, apron, eye protection, and other PPE, as necessary.
  4. Absorb liquids using appropriate absorbent material (such as spill pads, spill pillows or loose sorbents)
    • Do not attempt to neutralize acids or bases - absorb each liquid spill as is.
    • Do not use silica products to clean up hydrofluoric acid.
    • Do not use combustible materials to clean up oxidizers. For instance, do not use paper towels for nitric acid spills.
  5. Carefully sweep powder spills to avoid contaminating the air with chemical dust.
  6. Collect and contain clean-up materials in a plastic container or thick plastic bag and affix descriptive labels.
  7. Decontaminate the affected area and equipment (soap and water can be used to clean most surfaces) and ventilate the area, if necessary.
  8. Follow the Procedures for Requesting Chemical Waste Disposal in Chapter 8 of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chemical Waste Management Guide (http://www.drs.illinois.edu/Resources/ChemicalWasteGuide). If you have questions, contact the DRS Chemical Safety Section via e-mail or call 333-2755.

3.3. Mercury Spill Response

To avoid mercury spills, attempt to find alternatives to using mercury. If no alternatives are available, make sure to use trays or other equipment for containment in the event of a spill.

Follow These Steps to Respond to a Mercury Spill:

  1. Cordon off the area to prevent mercury from being tracked (secure with signs and warning tape, or post staff to prevent anyone from entering the affected area).
  2. Use a mercury sponge to absorb mercury from a broken thermometer. Place the sponge and broken thermometer in a sturdy plastic bag. Close the bag and label it "Broken Mercury Thermometer."
  3. Use Hg Absorb™ to clean up small spills of mercury. Place contaminated items in a sturdy bag and request a chemical waste pickup using the ChemTrak form CWM-TRK-01 (http://www.drs.illinois.edu/site-documents/CWMTRK01.pdf).
  4. For large spills, contact F&S (3-0340) to request clean-up using a special mercury vacuum cleaner (there will be a charge). Do NOT use regular or shop vacuum cleaners because they will generate harmful mercury vapors and become contaminated.

3.4 Radiological Spill Response

For intermediate and high level radioactive spills, please consult the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Radiation Safety Manual Emergency Procedures section (http://www.drs.illinois.edu/Resources/RadiationSafetyManual).

Follow These Steps to Respond to a Low-Level Radioactive Spill:

  1. Wear appropriate protective clothing to reduce personnel contamination.
  2. Cordon off the contaminated area (secure with signs and warning tape, or post staff to prevent anyone from entering the affected area).
  3. Notify personnel in the area about the contamination.
  4. Decontaminate from the outside of the spill area towards the center to avoid spreading contamination (Soap and water may be used to clean most surfaces, however, do not roughen the surface because it will make it more difficult to decontaminate. For stubborn contamination, consult the Radiation Safety Section at 333-2755 or via e-mail for recommended decontamination agents.)
  5. Remove protective clothing when leaving the contaminated area to reduce the spread of the contamination.
  6. Treat all decontamination equipment and run-off as being contaminated. (Decontaminate or treat as radioactive waste as appropriate.)
  7. Make a complete record of the decontamination process.
  8. Monitor the area to ensure thorough decontamination.

4. Spill Reporting Procedures

Employee's Injury Report:

Supervisors should ensure that this form is completed for all work-related injuries or illness involving activities for which campus persons are paid. (http://www.obfs.uillinois.edu/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=917400).

Public Injury Report:

This form should be completed if a person suffers an injury during activities for which they are not paid. (http://www.obfs.uillinois.edu/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=917317).

Report of Exposure to Blood or Other Potentially Infectious Materials:

This form should be completed (in addition to the appropriate injury report listed above) if there has been an occupational exposure to blood borne pathogens (BBP). (http://www.drs.illinois.edu/site-documents/ReportExposureSourceBBP2011.pdf).

These reports should be completed regardless of where the injury occurred or whether the person received medical treatment. Contact the Claims Management Office at (217) 333-1080 or http://www.obfs.uillinois.edu/risk/compensation.shtml for more information on Worker's Compensation.

5. Preventing Spills

The following precautions are basic spill prevention measures:


  • Reduce clutter and unnecessary materials in the work area
  • Eliminate tripping hazards and other obstructions
  • Have all necessary equipment readily available before starting work
  • Periodically check equipment (fume hoods, biological safety cabinets, sinks, lab benches, etc.) for signs of deterioration


  • Use sturdy shelves with lips
  • Store containers away from shelf edges
  • Store large containers near the floor
  • Use appropriate storage containers for chemicals
  • Store chemicals by compatibility class, and then alphabetically
  • Inspect the storage area regularly for leaky, defective containers and deteriorating labels
  • Store highly hazardous liquids in sealed, chemical-resistant secondary containers


  • Use carts and safety containers to transport items, if appropriate
  • Use bottle carriers for any glass bottle greater than 250 ml
  • Use straps to secure gas cylinders
  • Analyze potential hazards before transporting chemicals
  • Use plastic-coated, shatter resistant bottles, if appropriate

Dispensing chemicals

  • Pay careful attention to the size of containers to avoid overflowing
  • Use pumps or other mechanical devices instead of pouring chemicals, if appropriate
  • Provide containment to capture leaks and spills

Last Update: 1/29/2013