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Health & Safety: Dealing With Spills

Be aware: know how to deal with a spill before you start using a chemical or biohazardous agent

Chemical Spills

Each lab is equipped with a large Universal Spill Kit for chemical, oil and solvent spills, contained in a large, white pail.

Contents include

  1. Small broom and dustpan
  2. Absorbent padding or paper
  3. Protective gloves
  4. Acid Neutralizer
  5. Alkali Neutralizer
  6. Solvent Vapour Suppressant

These kits are not to be used for strong oxidizers.

Complex Spills

  1. Considered too large (>4 Litres) or too hazardous to be cleaned up without special equipment.
  2. Phone extension 52000 for assistance in cleaning up these


Mercury and mercury containing compounds are "designated substance" under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations. Do not use mercury thermometers or other instruments containing metallic mercury when a substitute is available.

Phone the Fire Division, extension 52071, 8 a.m. to midnight, Monday to Friday. The Fire Prevention Officer will clean up the spill using a special mercury vacuum cleaner.

Substances with extremely noxious odors

Some substances such as mercaptoethanol have potent odors that may cause nausea and vomiting in susceptible people or mimic the odor of a gas leak.

Phone the Fire Division, extensionx52071 during regular hours Monday to Friday for clean-up assistance. Outside of regular hours, phone extension 52000 to report the incident. It is very important to report these spills immediately to inform the authorities that the odors are not caused by a gas leak.

Ammonia Spills

Concentrated ammonia (ammonium hydroxide solution) releases very caustic vapours that necessitate the use of respiratory protection.

Phone extension 52000 for assistance in cleaning up these spills.

Hydrochloric Acid Spills

Concentrated hydrochloric acid releases very corrosive vapours that necessitate the use of respiratory protection. Spills larger than a litre may require assistance, call extension 52000; otherwise use acid neutralizer located in the spill kits.

Flammable Solvent Spills

Ensure all Bunsen burners or other sources of ignition are switched off. Work quickly to prevent the spread of flammable vapours toward any ignition sources. Use the vapour suppressant spill control material in the spill kit and place all used material in the fume hood until hazardous waste pickup can be arranged.

Radioisotope Spills

Cordon off the area. Clean up the spill as outlined in your radiation safety training. All radioisotope spills are to be reported to the Radiation Safety Officer, extension 52888.

Biohazardous Spills (bacteria, virus, tissue cultures, animal products)

Wearing gloves, pick up saturated paper towels and dispose of in biohazardous bag. Rinse floor with disinfectant. Wait 20 minutes, absorb with paper towels. Pick up all material. Insure floor is dry. Take biohazardous bag with contents to be autoclaved.

Contaminated Labcoats

Immediately remove lab coat. Soak in disinfectant in sink for 20 minutes, place in laundry pick-up bag.

Contaminated Shoes

Step on disinfectant soaked paper towels or soak spill with disinfectant. If necessary, soak shoe soles in bath containing disinfectant for 20 minutes. Dry all surfaces and ‘footprints’ before leaving the lab. Do not walk out of the lab until shoes are thoroughly decontaminated.


Working Dilution


70% Ethyl Alcohol Spray

70% in ddH20 from 99% stock dispensed from dept. storage           

sprayed and wiped from surface laminar flow hood, incubator
1 minute potency

NH3 spray

4 Litre -40C windshield washer fluid + 100 ml ammonium hydroxide

spray on surface laminar flow hoods, incubators, 2 min. potency for parasites and fungal spores

Household Bleach

1:10 in water     

decant waste from tissue culture, inactivate DAB dye, cleaning agent, 20 minute potency


as indicated on bottle (depending on task)

cleaning incubators, rinse with ddH20


as indicated on bottle (depending on task)

removes protein buildup

Many commercial products are available. 
Each should be assessed for lab functions.