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Environmental Health and Safety

Chemical Hazards

In addition to fire, accidents that lead to the release of chemicals and personnel exposure are the two most common lab emergencies. When incidents like these occur, lab personnel are expected to follow emergency procedures to reduce the potential impact to personnel, property and the environment.

  • Your name and phone#
  • Incident location: this address, building and room#
  • Injured person, if any, specific injury and location; request ambulance if needed
  • Hazardous materials involved, if known
  • What happened; describe activities that caused the incident and your initial response
  • Other relevant information that may help responders evaluate and stabilize the incident
  • Other information asked by dispatch
  1. Pull an emergency fire alarm.
  2. Evacuate the building using the nearest exit stairway. Warn everyone on your way out.
  3. Call 911 and provide information listed above.
  4. Proceed to the designated evacuation area.

If your clothing is on fire-

  1. “STOP, DROP and ROLL”. (If someone is on fire, instruct the person to drop to the ground and to roll back and forth).
  2. Cover your face with your hands.
  3. Never use a fire extinguisher on a person. Use a fire blanket to help smother the flames. A damp towel may be used if the fire does not involve water-reactive chemicals.
  1. Determine if it is a “major” or “minor” spill. A minor spill is one that is contained (e., inside fume hood, biosafety cabinet) or small enough that it can be cleaned up safely with the spill kit available and where special personal protection (i.e. respirator) is not required.  
  2. Assist anyone who may have been contaminated or injured during the spill.
  3. Clean up a minor chemical spill using your chemical spill kit.
  4. Call USC Police (803) 777-4215 and EH&S (803) 777-5269 for major spills and spills with mercury or hydrofluoric acid (HF).
  5. Contain a major spill with appropriate absorbent, only if it can be done safely (e., spill does not pose an inhalation hazard).
  6. Post “Spill in Progress, DO NOT ENTER” on entrance door and evacuate the area.
  7. Do not re-enter until Emergency Responders have cleaned up the spill and declared the building and laboratory safe for reentry.
  1. Pull the safety shower lever to start the water flowing. For eyewashes, push lever to start the water flowing.
  2. Wash off contaminants from your eyes by holding your eyes open to get the water under your eyelids.
  3. Remove all contaminated clothing and shoes to effectively wash off skin contaminants.
  4. Stay under the water for at least 15 min to wash off contaminant. If your skin came into contact with HF, wash HF off for 5 minutes, then start to massage liberal amount of calcium gluconate gel to affected area. Repeat application every 15 minutes.  
  5. Proceed to Center for Health and Well-being or the nearest ER for immediate treatment. Provide the Safety Data Sheet of the chemical involved.

Printable Documents for posting

Laboratory Emergency Procedures for Chemical Spills and Splashes to Eyes and/or Skin [docx]

HF Spill [pdf]

Mercury Spill [pdf]

Hazardous Gas Release in Horizon I Building [pdf]


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