Chemical Emergency Response

The range and quantity of hazardous substances used in WSU laboratories require pre-planning to respond safely to a chemical spill.  When planning experiments, lab personnel should review the safety data sheets of the chemicals to be used to understand the hazards they present and how to respond in an emergency.  OEHS also has fact sheets and standard operating procedures that can provide guidance on emergency response for some high hazard chemicals.  Additional resources include PubChem and Prudent Practices in the Laboratory. Below are general guidelines for handling chemical spills and fires.  These guidelines may not be appropriate for all chemicals.

Chemical Spill Procedures

  1. Spills

For hazardous material spills or releases which have impacted the environment (via the storm drain, soil, or air outside the building) or which cannot be cleaned up by local personnel due to size of spill, hazard level, or hazards are unknown:

    1. Call WSU Police (313) 577-2222. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
    2. Evacuate the spill area.
    3. Post someone or mark-off the hazardous area with tape and warning signs to keep other people from entering.
    4. Remain in the vicinity until emergency personnel arrive and provide them with information on the chemicals involved.

For additional information regarding spill response procedures, refer to the WSU Chemical Hygiene Plan and American Chemical Society (ACS) guide for chemical spill response.

  1. Small Spills

In the event of a minor spill or release that can be safely cleaned up by local personnel using readily available equipment (e.g., absorbent materials) and appropriate PPE:

    1. Alert personnel in the immediate area of spill and restrict access.
    2. Eliminate all sources of ignition.
    3. Increase ventilation in area of spill (turn on fume hood and open sash, open windows). Vent vapors to outside of building only.
    4. Review the SDS for the spilled material, or use your knowledge, to assess the hazards and to determine the appropriate level of protection.
      1. DO NOT clean up spills requiring respiratory protection. Contact OEHS for help (313) 577-1200.
    5. Choose appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g., goggles, face shield, chemical resistant gloves, lab coat or apron).
    6. Protect floor drains, sinks or other potential avenues of environmental release as much as possible. Make a dike around the outside edges of the spill using absorbent materials.
    7. For solid spills: Use a scoop and brush or other suitable non-combustible items to collect spilled material. Minimize dust generation.
    8. For liquid spills: Cover the liquid with appropriate non-combustible absorbent material (NO paper towel), working from the spill's outer edges toward the center.
    9. Collect spill cleanup materials using a scoop or other suitable items and place in a tightly closed hazardous waste container.
    10. After spilled material is removed, decontaminate surfaces with water or other appropriate solvent.
    11. Place all contaminated materials, including contaminated items such as gloves, in the hazardous waste container.
    12. Label waste container with completed hazardous waste tag (available from OEHS).
    13. Submit an online chemical waste pickup request to OEHS.

Chemical Fire

Fire Extinguishers – Refer to section 5 of the safety data sheet for chemical specific firefighting measures. Both ABC dry powder and carbon dioxide extinguishers are appropriate for most fires. Some chemicals, such as combustible metals, require special extinguishing agents and the fire may be made worse by using an ABC type fire extinguisher. Note, Enterprise Risk Management can provide fire extinguisher training for laboratory personnel.

  1. Alert people in the vicinity and proceed to the nearest fire alarm pull station to activate the local alarm system.
  2. Call WSU Police at 577-2222.
  3. If the chemical(s) is toxic or too large to be extinguished with a portable fire extinguisher:
    1. Evacuate the area and go to your Emergency Assembly Point.
    2. Remain nearby to advise emergency responders.
    3. Once personal safety is established, call OEHS at (313) 577-1200.
  4. If you have been properly trained and/or experienced in the use of a portable fire extinguisher and fire is small, you may attempt to extinguish the fire using an appropriate fire extinguisher. To extinguish a fire, use the PASS method:
    1. Pull pin while holding extinguisher upright.
    2. Aim nozzle at base of fire while standing 8-10 feet away.
    3. Squeeze lever.
    4. Sweep extinguisher side to side.



When in doubt, evacuate and call WSU Police (313) 577-2222.