Chemical Spills/Biological Exposure

When a spill occurs, you and others should move well away from the area when determining the appropriate response. The appropriate response depends on whether the spill is a simple spill, which you can clean up yourself; or a complex spill, which requires outside assistance.

When a chemical spill occurs, the responsibility for cleaning the spill rests with the person causing the spill. If the individual responsible is unknown, or unable to clean up the spill due to injury, then responsibility for dealing with the spill rests with the department where the spill occurred.

Custodians are not permitted to clean up spills of hazardous materials. The Wilcox Medical Center staff and director of facilities and service management will provide technical advice, but are not responsible for the spill cleanup. 


Simple Spill

  • Does not spread rapidly;
  • Spill or toxic vapors are not spreading beyond the immediate area.
  • Does not endanger people or property except by direct contact;
    • The identity of the spilled chemical is known.
    • A person has not been injured in the incident.
    • A fire is not present or an explosion has not occurred.
    • Flammable vapors and ignition sources are not present.
    • Toxic vapors or dusts, i.e., inhalation hazards, are not present.
    • The spilled chemical is not air, water, or otherwise highly reactive.
    • The spilled chemical is not a strong oxidizer.
  • Does not endanger the environment;
  • There is no risk of the spilled chemical entering a sewer or contaminating soil.
  • After cleaning up a simple spill, a brief write-up should be prepared to document what   happened, why, what was done, and what was learned. Use the college’s incident report for this purpose, and forward a copy to the Department of Public Safety.

If the spill does not meet all three characteristics of a simple spill, evacuate the area and call Campus Safety immediately.

Protocol Action Steps for Complex Chemical Spills

  • Whenever you spill a chemical, or discover a spill or release, tell your coworkers and supervisor regardless of how small or insignificant the spill or release appears.
  • Call 911 and assure prompt medical attention for any person injured or experiencing respiratory distress.
  • If a complex spills exists, the key person in charge of the site should vacate the affected area at once and seal it off to prevent further contamination of other areas.
  • Activate the building alarm (fire alarm) and evacuate the building. Assist the handicapped in exiting the building. Remember that elevators are reserved for handicapped use. Do not use elevators in case of fire. Do not panic.
  • After the building or area has been evacuated, contact Campus Safety. When reporting, be specific about the nature of the material involved and the exact location
  • Campus Safety will report the spill immediately to the director for facilities and service management and 911 if appropriate.
  • Campus Safety will then proceed to spill site and help with evacuation and perimeter control as needed.
  • Anyone who may be contaminated by the spill should immediately begin using the deluge shower removing contaminated clothing as the flow of water begins, and washing the affected area of the skin for 15 minutes.
  • The victim should remain in the vicinity and give his/her name to medical staff. Required first aid or medical treatment will begin as soon as possible.
  • MSDS sheets should be presented to medical staff at the time they arrive on site.
  • If the spill is complex, all clean-up will be handled by professionals according to OSHA hazardous waste regulations. 

Biological Exposure

This protocol applies to the deliberate or unintentional release of germs or other biological substances that can make an individual sick. Such substances may be inhaled, enter through a cut in the skin or be eaten. While it is possible that exposure could be the result of a recognized biological attack, it is perhaps more likely that local health care workers will report a pattern of unusual illness or there will be a wave of sick people seeking emergency medical attention. 

If you become aware of an unusual and suspicious release of an unknown substance nearby, you should take the following precautions: 

  • Quickly get away.
  • Do not come in contact with the identified substance.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with layers of fabric, paper towels, etc.
  • Wash with soap and water.
  • Call 911 and notify Campus Safety.
  • When local law enforcement arrives, they will assume command of the situation, in consultation with the crisis management team 

Roles & Responsibilities

  • After the building or area has been evacuated, Campus Safety will notify the president, the director of facilities and service management and 911 if necessary.
  • Campus Safety will conduct sweep of building or area for persons not evacuated.
    • Campus Safety will set perimeter of determined feet from area or around building according to emergency response guidebook.
    • If appropriate, the crisis management team will be convened and an appropriate response plan will be developed. Recommended additions to the team include the chair or other members of the chemistry department and the Dow building coordinator for assistance in determining the appropriate response.