Ohio UniversityWITHDRAWN Administration Policy and Procedure

44.106:  Chemical or Radioactive Spill Response

WITHDRAWN as of November 2, 2009

(consolidated into Policy 44.104)


Approved on January 6, 2004Signatures and dates
on archival copy


when approved 

Initiated by:

Charles Hart
Director of Environmental Health and Safety

Reviewed by:

Herman ("Butch") Hill, Chair
Policy and Procedure Review Committee

Endorsed by:

Gary North
Vice President for Administration

Approved by:

Stephen Kopp

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To provide University personnel with information to assist in the decision making process when faced with a significant chemical or radioactive spill.


All faculty, staff, students and other employees should be aware of the following procedures when appropriate.

All spaces handling, storing, or using liquid hazardous materials shall have available enough absorbent to mitigate a spill equal to the largest size container of liquid in the space.


I.  Establishing the Significance

Spills are either significant or insignificant. What determines significance? If additional help is needed the spill is considered significant. The amount of the chemical or radioactive material spilled is not the major concern. The major concern is the life threatening potential of the spill. Flammability, chemical toxicity, radiation level, and concentration are very important factors in determining whether a spill is significant or insignificant.

If the containers of chemicals around you are not familiar, then any spill is of concern.

Make the initial assessment of the situation with your senses:

  • Does it smell bad?
  • Is it hurting the eyes, nose, or throat?
  • Does the material cause choking or difficulty in breathing?
  • Does the material cause nauseation?
  • Does the material cause dizziness?
  • Is the material smoking, sizzling, or hissing?
  • Is the spill in a chemistry lab (as opposed to being in a kitchen)?

If all of the above questions' answers are "no," then it is possible the spill should be considered insignificant (even though it may have chronic health or environmental significance). The last question is based on the fact that chemicals in laboratories are more likely to be concentrated or highly reactive than the commercial and consumer products commonly found in kitchens.

If all of the above questions' answers are "no," then you can usually take the time to read the label or MSDS, and from that information decide whether the spill should be considered insignificant and cleaned up, or the spill should be considered significant and help should be called.

If you are familiar with the contents of containers and the environment where a spill occurs, you can choose a commensurate response based on your knowledge about the chemicals. For example, the chemical may smell bad or burn the eyes and throat, but you may know that these mild symptoms occur even at concentrations that are not harmful. In this case, you would consider the spill to be insignificant. If a chemical is regularly used, then its properties are likely to be well known.

This very same chemical spill might well be a significant spill to a different person, who did not have the detailed knowledge about that chemical. For the purpose of this procedure, if it is necessary for additional help to be called, consider the spill to be significant.

II.  Significant Spills

If the spill is considered significant, then the appropriate response will depend on whether the location is indoors or outside.

A.  Inside a Building

  1. The fire alarm shall be activated and the building must be evacuated.

  2. When leaving, close the door and notify as many people as possible that there is a chemical spill and where it is. (A warning, "Chemical (or Radioactive) Spill," should be communicated to all.)

  3. Ensure the alarm has been reported by calling 911.

  4. Wait outside for the Fire Department to arrive and report to the Fire Chief or designated person in charge.

    The acronym CARE is an easy way to remember what to do. The procedure may not be in the same order. Close the door, activate the Alarm, Report the incident, and Evacuate the building.

B.  Outside of a Building


  1. Stay clear of danger.

  2. Call 911 and report the spill.

  3. Do everything possible to keep others away from the spill without risking personal safety.

  4. Wait for the Fire Department to arrive and report to the Fire Chief or designated person in charge.

C.  In All Cases

The Fire Department will make an assessment based on information and other resources available, and will decide what actions to take. All instructions will come from the person in charge at the scene. This will be the Fire Chief unless otherwise delegated. If the Fire Chief determines the spill will affect more than one building, then a university-wide alert shall be sounded.

If it is believed that an alarm response is not warranted, and it is decided not to pull the fire alarm or call 911, seek the opinion of the immediate supervisor or contact Environmental Health and Safety (EHS): phone 593-1666 and ask for a person in charge.

If individuals are familiar with the spilled material and are comfortable with cleaning the material up, it should be cleaned up cautiously.

If the material is well isolated, but it is known the room is not safe to be occupied, EHS will assist in contacting a chemical or radioactive spill cleanup team. In this case, clearly label all entrances to the space with signs "Do Not Enter, Chemical (or Radioactive) Spill."

Things to consider in this situation:

  1. Is the material flammable? Could there be a fire or explosion?

  2. Might the space ventilation system carry vapors, fumes, or dust to another space?

  3. Can the crack around the door be sealed so the vapors will not flow into the hallway?

  4. Is there a path for a liquid to run down to the next level? (This can be around pipes that go through floors under sinks, pipes that may be hidden by cabinets. It is recommended the room below be secured just in case.)

The spill situation requires judgment calls. Always err on the safe side. Do not take chances.

The Fire Chief, Ohio University Police Department, and Environmental Health and Safety have the emergency pager number to contact a contractor for emergency chemical or radioactive spill cleanup.

III.  Funding

Emergency spill clean up will be funded initially by Environmental Health and Safety. EHS reserves the right to invoice parties involved.


Proposed revisions of this policy should be reviewed by:

  1. Policy and Procedure Review Committee

  2. Director of Facilities Management

  3. Vice President for Research

  4. Director of Campus Safety


There are no forms that are specific to this policy.

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Dick Piccard revised this file (https://www.ohio.edu/policy/44-106.html) on March 23, 2016.

Please E-mail any comments or suggestions to "policy@ohio.edu".