Skip to main content

Hazardous Materials Spill


Environmental Health & Safety (EHS)

Statesboro Campus

Armstrong Campus

Office of Public Safety


Armstrong and Liberty

What is a Hazardous Material Spill?

  • A spill is an uncontrolled release of a hazardous substance (i.e. chemical, biological, or radiological).
  • Releases, spills, accidents involving hazardous material should be dealt with expeditiously with maximum emphasis on safety of all personnel involved.
  • If, as a user, you spill a chemical/hazardous material and are capable of cleaning the spill, follow the procedures appropriate for the type of spill.
  • There are two (2) categories of spills: Minor Spills, and Major Spills.
    • Minor Spill
      • A minor spill is under 500mL and does not present immediate fire, safety, environmental or health hazard to personnel; and that can normally be handled safely by university personnel without the assistance of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) or emergency response personnel. EHS can provide technical advice or onsite assistance if needed.
    • Major Spill
      • The characterization of a spill as major will depend on the following factors:
      • Quantity spilled – if the amount of the material spilled is such that personnel cannot safely handle its cleanup, it is considered a major spill and you should contact University Public Safety and EHS for assistance.
      • If the spill presents an immediate danger to life, health, safety, the environment, or it is an immediate fire hazard and explosion hazard (exceeds or has the potential to exceed 25% of the LEL); it requires immediate attention because it presents an oxygen-deficient condition; there are injuries requiring medical attention or hazardous properties of the spilled substance is unknown.
      • If the spill is outside of the laboratory or outside of the area where the material is normally used, and there is no trained person available to clean up the spill, you should contact the EHS department for assistance. If the spill reacts with a medium that will pose a threat or hazard, you should contact Public Safety and EHS for assistance.

What to do When a Spill Occurs

  • Hazardous Material User
    • Do not panic.
    • Assess the situation and notify others in the area.
    • Move away from the spill area and call Public Safety if you are unsure of how to clean the spill.
    • Use your best judgment in determining whether the spill is major or minor.
    • Always remember, your safety comes first. Do not put yourself or others at risk of serious injury.
    • Spill Clean-up
      1. When a spill occurs alert those in the immediate area for their safety.
      2. The cleanup should be accomplished by the user, who has been trained to use a spill kit, understands the properties and hazards posed by the hazardous material, and any added dangers posed by the location of the spill. Areas, where chemicals are frequently used or stored, should have spill kits that contain instructions, absorbents, neutralizing reactants, protective equipment, and sealable waste buckets.
      3. If the spill is beyond your capacity, equipment, and training, do not attempt to do so on your own. STOP and contact Environmental Health and Safety as well as the Office of Public Safety.
      4. If you are a hazardous materials user and assess the spill to be minor, it is your responsibility to alert others to stay away for their safety and follow proper cleanup procedures using the proper personal protection equipment. If you require assistance, call Environmental Health and Safety.
  • Bystander
    • Do not panic.
    • Move away from the spill area and call University Public Safety if you are unsure of how to clean the spill.
    • Always remember, your safety comes first. Do not put yourself or others at risk of serious injury.
  • For a Minor Spill or Leak
    Note: Minor spill clean up is the responsibility of the personnel responsible for the spill. EHS can provide assistance if needed.
    1. If there is a need, alert people and evacuate them from the immediate area of the spill. This will depend on the nature of the spill. Example: Hazardous Material not immediately dangerous to life and health, but present odorous effects. EHS can provide assistance if needed.
    2. Put on appropriate Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) including gloves, protective eyewear, and lab coat or apron.
    3. Attend to any contaminated person.
    4. Control the spread of the spill to a small area.
    5. Refer to the safety data sheets (SDS) for hazard and cleanup information. If there are concerns about safely cleaning up the spill contact Environmental Health and Safety.
    6. Use an appropriate spill kit to neutralize and absorb the spill.
    7. Completely clean the area where the spill occurred.
    8. Place the absorbed spill material and contaminated PPE in a containment. Label the container and notify EHS through the work order system for pick up.
    9. Decontaminate the surface using mild detergent and water.
    10. Complete the Accident/Incident Report Form. Minor spills must be reported in writing to EHS within one working day of the occurrence. This report must contain the date, time, location, names of persons involved, material spilled and volume, as well as a detailed description of the incident and any type of corrective actions taken.
  • For a Major Spill or Leak
    Note: Depending on the type of hazardous material, a major spill may not be able to be cleaned up by the personnel responsible for the spill or by EHS. This type of spill will require an external emergency response (i.e. Hazardous Response Team).
    • Stop Work.
    • Alert people and evacuate them from the immediate area of the spill.
    • Do not attempt to clean up a major spill that presents immediate fire, safety, environmental or health hazard. Leave it to a trained professional. If possible to do so safely without personal risk:
      1. Remove or Attend to injured persons.
      2. Shut off all ignition sources.
      3. If incident occurred in a laboratory, leave chemical fume hood on.
      4. If necessary, pull fire alarm and exit the building to a safe location.
      5. Call Public Safety and share incident details with first responders on the nature of the emergency, other possible hazards in the area and any additional information requested.
      6. Remove all contaminated clothing, shoes, etc. and/or use an emergency shower if one is nearby.
      7. Seek immediate medical attention if you have been exposed.
      8. Complete the Accident/Incident Report Form
      9. Major spills require an incident investigation to be conducted by the supervisor. Major spills meet OSHA’s criteria for an “Emergency Response” and they are required to be fully investigated. EHS staff will be available to assist in the investigation.
  • Local Hazardous Materials Accident
    • If you are asked to evacuate by authorities—do so immediately.
    • Follow the routes recommended by authorities and leave at once. Bring your pets with you.
    • If you are caught outside during a hazardous materials incident- stay upstream and/or upwind from the location of the incident.
      • Move away from the incident area and warn others to stay away.
      • Do not walk into or touch spilled liquids, airborne mists, or solid chemical deposits.
      • Try not to inhale gases, fumes or smoke. Cover mouth with a cloth while leaving the area.
      • If you are in a vehicle, close windows and vents and move out of the area.
      • Seek shelter in a permanent building and turn off air conditioning and heaters. Close doors, windows, vents and fireplace dampers.
    • If you are told to stay indoors—do so.
      • Seal gaps in doors and windows with tape or wet towels.
      • Bring pets inside.
      • Follow the directions given by local officials.
  • Exposure to a Person or People
    • If it is safe to do so, remove the contaminated person(s) from the area. Be careful not to touch contaminated clothing and items if possible.
    • Call 9-1-1 for immediate medical attention. Provide as much information as possible (e.g. visible transportation and/or chemical placards; Safety Data Sheet (SDS) information; description of release– gas, liquid, fumes, smell, symptoms of exposed person(s).
    • Follow decontamination instructions provided by officials. This may include removal of contaminated clothing and using an emergency eyewash or shower.
    • Act quickly.

Last updated: 8/9/2021