Facilities Management Chemical Spill Protocol


This Protocol is intended to guide the user in preparing for and responding to chemical spills, so as to minimize the severity of such incidents and maintain priority for life safety, preservation of property, and timely restoration of academic programs. This Protocol does not address spills or releases of infectious agents, radioactive materials, or mercury.


It is the policy of Willamette University to comply with OAR 437 and 29 CFR 1910.1200 in responding to hazardous chemical spills and exposures. Emergency response consists of responding, identifying, alerting, evacuation, medical intervention, and decontamination.



It is critical that University employees know the properties and hazards of individual chemicals with which they work because of varying routes of exposure, occupational exposure limits, and acute or chronic effects of exposure. All spill response decisions must be based on the actual chemical involved. The following information is intended as general guidance.


  1. Review Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to become familiar with the physical and health hazards of chemicals used and stored in the work area. Note and adhere to recommendations regarding special precautions, spill equipment, and controls.


  1. Identify and document procedures and/or equipment failures that could result in releases or exposures. If possible, make modifications in the process to minimize or eliminate the possibility of releases or exposures.


  1. Identify area-specific features that may increase or decrease the potential for spills or exposures, as well as the required response actions needed to minimize the hazards. For example, identifying and eliminating sources of ignition in flammable liquids storage areas can minimize the potential for secondary fire following spillage of a flammable liquid.


  1. Identify maximum quantities of materials that could be released under various conditions (i.e., during container handling, dispensing, fire conditions, etc.) and potential receptors (i.e., floor or sewer drains, adjacent areas, other rooms on the same air supply system, etc.).


  1. Identify needed and available personal protective equipment, emergency communication devices, spill supplies, fire extinguishers, eye wash stations, emergency showers, first aid kits, and other equipment that are readily available to respond to an accident or release. Know the maximum quantity of released material for which you are adequately prepared to respond, and know when outside assistance will be needed.


  1. Identify building evacuation routes. These routes should be discussed, posted, and practiced at least annually with staff.


  1. Identify notification procedures for emergency responders, including campus service units.

Types of Hazardous Chemical Spills

Hazardous chemical exposures or spills consist of chemical release into the environment above the manufacturer’s suggested level of safety. The same chemical(s) may not pose a threat in low concentrations; however, in large concentrations the exposure may be harmful or fatal. Fume/vapor exposure may occur and cause a sense of burning or irritation to the mouth, nose, throat, chest, or eyes; dizziness; nausea; or presence of a strong odor may exist.


Small Spills

In general, a small spill meets the following parameters:

  1. Adequate clean-up supplies and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are readily available;
  2. Respiratory protection is not required to avoid over-exposure during the clean-up, and the spill is not in an unventilated or enclosed space that must be bodily entered;
  3. The spilled material is not highly toxic, does not endanger people or property except by direct contact, and has good warning properties (e.g., does not deaden the senses; is detected by the senses at concentrations well below the exposure limits; and, exposure produces immediate, and reversible effects- not delayed or permanent effects);
  4. The spill is not likely to spread beyond the area immediately involved; and,
  5. The threat of secondary events is minimal (e.g., explosions, fires, etc.). Water reactive and air-reactive chemicals, highly flammable solvents in the presence of potential ignition sources, compressed gases, and strong oxidizing agents typically involve increased risk for secondary events.


Large Spills

A large spill involves situations that do not qualify under the small spill criteria described above. For example, the spill involves quantities that exceed spill kit supplies; the spill involves materials and/or quantities that pose an inhalation hazard requiring respiratory protection to avoid over-exposure; or the chemical has poor warning properties and/or presents risk of chronic health effects.


Small Spill Clean-up Kits

At a minimum, a spill kit should be assembled of the following materials:

  1. Personal Protective Equipment
    1. Splash Goggles - 1 pr.
    2. Faceshield - 1
    3. Assortment of chemical resistant gloves
    4. Protective outer garment (i.e., tychem® suit, apron, lab coat, shoe covers, etc.)
  2. Diking Materials and Absorbents – Diatomaceous earth and vermiculite are relatively inexpensive and effective diking or absorbing agents. However, spill pillows and pads are easier to store and use. When selecting pads or pillows, select a “universal” type that is compatible with a broad range of chemicals.
  3. Neutralizing Agents – Citric acid can be used to neutralize caustics. Soda ash can be used to neutralize acids. However, neutralization can often cause splashing, vigorous gas evolution, and become quite messy. Neutralizing agents can form salt deposits that are hard to remove from floors and other surfaces. Generally, it is more efficient and tidy to absorb acids and bases with compatible pillows or pads, or diatomaceous earth.
  4. Disposal containers for spill cleanup residues and contaminated materials. Plastic pails or buckets equipped with lids are excellent choices. Heavy plastic bags can also be used. If heavy plastic bags are selected, have some duct tape handy to seal the bag after use.
  5. Equipment – Brushes, brooms, scoops, shovels, dust pans, and other similar items may be necessary to facilitate remote handling of contaminated materials and absorbents.
  6. Decontamination materials – Soap and scrub brushes will be needed for area and equipment decontamination.
  7. Fire extinguisher properly classed for any potential chemical release.
  8. First aid kit
  9. Hazardous Material Collection Tags.
  10. Special spill control materials as recommended in the SDS or as required to prevent releases from spreading to likely receptors (i.e., impervious drain blocks for floor drains, etc.).


Appropriate response steps for a small spill

  1. If safe, feasible, and quick, take action to stop the release (i.e., upright containers that have been knocked over, close valves, etc.).  Confirm the “small” nature of the spill.
  2. Call 911 if the spill involves fire or injury.
  3. Alert others in the immediate vicinity. Ensure that extraneous personnel remain at a safe distance until the spill is completely cleaned. One of these people can serve as a “monitor” and alert emergency response personnel if the spill unexpectedly results in an emergency. If others are available they can assist in notifying supervisors and other appropriate individuals.
  4. Don appropriate personal protective equipment.
  5. Contain the spill. This may involve increasing ventilation via fume hoods or windows if a volatile material is involved, sealing floor drains, closing doors, inactivating potential sources of ignition, forming a dike around the perimeter of the spill with absorbent.
  6. Absorb the liquid on the interior of the dike with additional granular absorbent, spill pillows, or absorbent pads.
  7. If the spill involves solid granular or powdered material, take care not to create dusts while scooping the material into a sealable container. So long as the material is not water-reactive, it can be misted with water to prevent dust formation.
  8. Place all absorbents into a heavy plastic bucket or bag using scoops, shovels, tongs, or other remote handling devices, and seal the container.
  9. Decontaminate the spill area and non-disposable equipment by thoroughly cleaning with soap and water.
  10. Thoroughly wash hands, arms, face, and other potentially contaminated body parts.
  11. Tag the spill residues, absorbents, and disposable equipment for collection by a trained Hazardous Materials Manager.
  12. Notify Campus Safety at x6911 so follow-up action can be initiated as necessary.


Appropriate response steps for a large spill

In the case of imminent danger to health, property, or the environment, initiate the following actions:

  1. For indoor releases/spills: Leave the area and notify emergency response personnel.
    1. If the spill presents an imminent danger to health or property, pull the fire alarm to initiate building evacuation.
    2.  If the spill is large but does not pose an imminent danger, notify Campus Safety at x6911 and provide them with location of building, room, or landmark; a description of chemical, if known; the number of persons exposed and potential first aid needed; your name and phone number.
    3. To the extent possible and safe without risking exposure, contain or control the spread of the spill.
    4.  If Willamette University personnel are unable to remediate a chemical spill, Campus Safety will request through the Salem Fire Department, Salem Haz Mat Team, or a safety consultation company, a hazardous materials response team to assist in remediation of the hazardous chemical as per 29CFR1910.120.
  2. For outdoor releases/spills: Notify Campus Safety. If possible to do so safely (without risk of overexposure), take action to stop the release (i.e., shutting valves, etc.) and prevent or minimize releases to storm sewers. Do not initiate evacuation from adjacent buildings unless otherwise advised by emergency responders.
  3. Render appropriate first aid. Thoroughly wash exposed areas of the skin with soap and water. If there is an unconscious person/s in or around a chemical spill, the area should not be entered until the cause of unconsciousness is determined, proper personal protective equipment is used, and appropriate emergency personnel notified to respond. At no time should an attempt be made to enter the area where an unconscious person is without appropriate PPE.
  4. Remain at a safe location near the scene and present yourself to emergency response personnel for first aid, decontamination and medical assessment if needed. If possible, be able to provide the name of the chemical released, amount, location, potential hazards of the chemical and possible secondary hazards, etc.


Campus Safety Response

  1. Analysis - Campus Safety officers will, as first responders, analyze the chemical spill.
  2. Evacuate and Secure the Area – If needed, Campus Safety, with the help of Facilities Staff and Building Captains, will evacuate all persons to a predetermined designated safe area.
  3. Provide First Aid and/or Decontamination – This may include water dilution, ventilation, etc. until medical help arrives.
  4. Additional Resources - Campus Safety will determine what resources are required, including medical assistance, fire and life safety support, hazardous response team, etc.


Clearance Protocol

Persons may be allowed to return to a decontaminated area when a certified hazardous waste coordinator declares the site as safe. At no time is an employee, agent, student or other person to approach a hazardous waste spill or exposure unless they are trained in accordance with CFR 1910.120 and this protocol.


The HazMat response team may make recommendations to University staff what follow up tasks need to be completed before allowing staff back into the building or area. They may also require or recommend that an industrial hygienist be retained to take air and surface samples before clearance is granted.


Safety Data Sheets

Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals used in University Academic spaces are available in the Chemical Hygiene Office (Collins 206), by contacting Todd Melgreen x6734 or 501-590-6026 or by contacting Facilities Management at 503 370-6003.


Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for all chemicals used in University Facilities operations are available in the Facilities Management Office, the Office of Campus Safety and the Facilities Maintenance Shops in the lunch room.


Willamette University

Facilities Management

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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