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How to Control Hazardous Material Spillage

How to Control Hazardous Material Spillage in Your Company.

Hazardous material spillages are common in most laboratories, learning institutions, industrial facilities, and the maintenance functions. The material can lead to major losses in a company regarding the cleanup bills, medical care for personal injury, and legal liabilities.

The release of the hazardous material may be an accident or a deliberate criminal and are highly likely to cause serious injury or death to the people involved. Therefore, all workers should exercise caution when it comes to controlling or responding to a hazardous material spillage to ensure the safety of the people occupying the area and environment too. OSHA Spill Booklet pdf.

Understanding the Types of Spills.

The degree of hazard posed by the spills depends on a variety of factors including the location where the spill has occurred and its amount. The level of risk may also depend on the temperatures of an area, the surface that it encounters, the chemical itself and the ventilation of the room.

The spills may range from contaminated oil, chemical, and the biological with each of them holding some level of risks to humans and the surrounding environment.

A spill can also be minor or major with the difference being the kind of damage that it causes.

  • Minor risk

This sort of spill happens inside a lab and does not spread outside or result to fire and explosion.  A spill is characterized as a minor if it involves less than one liter of the hazardous material. The small spills in most cases pose a threat of injury to the laboratory occupants. The staff can contain the hazardous material safely on their own using the spill kits available in most laboratories without involving a safety emergency team.

  • Major Spills

A major spill poses a high risk to the people and surrounding environments. Building occupants should leave the containment and cleanup of the major spills to safety emergency teams since the chances of causing fire or explosion are high. In case there is no onsite emergency response team, the occupants should consider evacuating the building, calling for help, and protecting the health of the other people by containing the contaminated people.

3 Effects of Spillage

Evaluation is the first step towards containing a hazardous material spill to estimate the risks that they pose to humans, the property, or the environment. Below are some of the areas that are highly affected by spillage.

  1. Health Effects on Humans.

Flammable chemical releases pose health hazards such as fire and explosions to the people occupying an area. The hazardous material spills can cause adverse effects on a human body if it contains oxidizers, ignition sources, volatile vapors dust, and water or air reactive chemicals. Remember that the treatment of any material that the toxicity levels are unknown is similar to that of a hazardous material.

  1. The Environmental Damage.

A hazardous material has high chances of escaping to the environment through releases to the atmosphere, direct leakage to the soil or water and discharges to the sewer system. A company should block the source of the spill to prevent them from spreading before notifying the relevant safety team to contain the situation.

  1. Damage to the Physical Property.

Potential fire or explosion hazards, corrosive substance, and oxidizers have a high chance of destroying the property. Remember that any attempt to protect the property in the event of a spillage may also trigger some effects such as fires or explosion. It may also threaten the health of the person cleaning up the spill.

7 Best Hazardous spillage Control Process

Hazardous material spill containment is complex and requires the help of a trained and experienced professional. The process involved in the hazardous material spillage includes:

  1. Isolation

Complete isolation of the area of spillage prevents the dangerous material from spreading to other areas in the building.

  1. Wear Personal Protective Equipment

Avoid inhaling, ingestion, or absorption of the hazardous chemicals through the skin or mucous membranes by wearing the protective equipment.  PPE shields the spillage containment team from the vapor releases, spills, or other incidents. Some of the equipment to wear includes best chemical safety goggles, full-face shields, chemical-resistant gloves, accident resistant suits, and aprons.

  1. Assess the Risks

Assessment of the risks before commencing on the cleanup process helps in determining whether a liquid is flammable, the extent of damage, and the nature of the hazardous material. This aids in determining the cleanup methods to use and the necessary precautions to take to avoid causing accidents or fires.

  1. Spill Confinement

Use of the absorbent socks and pillows or non-absorbent dikes helps in soaking up the hazardous material and preventing spread to other areas. You may want to prevent the spill from running to the drains or other environmentally sensitive areas to avoid further damage.

  1. The Cleanup Process

The process used in cleaning up depends on the nature of the spill. You may consider closing the laboratory doors and increasing the ventilation in the case of dust and vapor spillage. Neutralize the acids using sodium bicarbonate or soda ash. Use citric acid or acetic acid to neutralize the bases. In the case of mercury metal, you can use a suction device to get small amounts of mercury before neutralizing it with an amalgamating material such as zinc powder. After neutralizing the hazardous material, you can begin working outward until you complete the process.

  1. Decontamination

Decontaminating the equipment and the people containing the spills prevents spread of the hazardous material to other places.

  1. Recording and Evaluation of the Spill

Record keeping helps in the long-term monitoring of the effects caused by the spill. It also comes in handy while filing a claim with the insurance company. Evaluation involves monitoring the health of the people participating in the cleanup and looking into what worked and what failed.


Hazardous material spillage is an issue of concern among most manufacturing plants, laboratories, and the maintenance industries. Sometimes the company may have taken all the necessary precautions to reduce any probability of spillage in an institution. However, some conditions may be purely accidental and unexpected. Every lab worker especially new trainees in the workplace should have the necessary training required to handle spillage while the institution should have spill kits in place for use in case of an emergency.

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