Planning for Chemical Spills


Every University building has a Building Emergency Action Plan (BEAP). You should obtain a copy of the BEAP for your particular building from your Building Emergency Coordinator (BEC). To locate your BEC choose one of the following BEC lists depending on your campus:

  • Belknap Campus
  • Health Sciences Campus.

If you have any other questions concerning your Building Emergency Action Plan contact the DEHS Emergency Planner at 852-2955



Every laboratory should prepare for emergency control of chemical spills. Experience has shown that the accidental release of hazardous substances is sufficiently common to require pre-planning for procedures that will minimize exposure of personnel and property. PERSONAL PROTECTION IS OF PRIMARY IMPORTANCE AND CLEANUP OF SPILLS IS SECONDARY.


The following items constitute necessary elements for pre-planning management of a chemical spill :

  • Prevention - proper storage, operating procedures, routine inspection, and personnel training to prevent or lessen the possibility of spills.

  • Containment - engineering controls such as containment walls, berms or other barriers in storage facilities and stock rooms.

  • Clean-up Capabilities - designation and responsibilities of personnel, proper training, and equipment to clean up the spill. Do not attempt to clean up large spills or spills of extremely hazardous materials. Large or extremely hazardous spills should be reported to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) at 852-6111. DPS will dispatch the appropriate responders.

  • Reporting - provisions for reporting spills to Public Safety 852-6111, and to the PI, laboratory supervisor, or other pertinent personnel.

  • Posting - emergency phone numbers and home phone number of the PI or laboratory supervisors.

  • Release - the potential location of the release, i.e., outdoors versus indoors, laboratory, corridor, storage facilities, hoods, and floor drains.

  • Quantity - the quantity of material that might be released and the dangers associated with that release. Some chemicals are so toxic that what appears to be a small accident could result in a significant health hazard.

  • Chemical Properties - the physical and chemical properties of the material, i.e., powder, crystal, liquid, solid, or gas and its reactivity with nearby elements.

  • Hazardous Properties - toxicity, corrosivity, flammability, or reactivity.

  • Personal Protective Equipment - equipment to protect yourself during clean-up, such as chemically resistant gloves, goggles, lab coat, shoe covers, etc. Use of respirators without prior Department of Environmental Health and Safety approval is prohibited. Any chemical spill that requires respiratory protection to clean up must be handled by the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.

Assistance in pre-planning emergencies in your laboratory can be obtained from DEHS by contacting the Hazardous Waste Coordinator.



The following items should always be readily available for cleaning spills:

  • chemically resistant gloves, selected for the type of chemical.

  • chemical goggles and/or face shield.

  • closed-toed nonporous shoes that cover the entire foot.

  • lab coat, apron, or other similar protective covering.

  • spill clean-up agents, which may include.
    • neutralizing agents such as sodium carbonate and sodium bisulphate.

    • absorbents such as vermiculite and clay (kitty litter). Commercial spill clean-up kits may also be used; or

    • absorbent spill pads or pillows.

  • scoop and container for removing absorbed material.

  • sponge mop and bucket for cleaning up the floor after neutralization and absorption; and

  • dikes or other materials to contain the spill should also be available.

Additional spill clean-up material and personal protective equipment may be needed. You should thoroughly evaluate the particular hazardous chemicals or agents, and the potential spill scenarios for your laboratory.



The following guideline may be used in preparing a plan for response to spills, however, the plan should be tailored to meet individual laboratory needs.

  1. Notify persons in the immediate area that a spill has occurred.

  2. Evacuate nonessential personnel from the spill area.

  3. If possible to do safely, turn off ignition sources.

  4. Try to keep the chemical from entering floor drains or sink drains.

  5. Attend to persons who may have been injured or contaminated.

  6. Notify your supervisor. Then see table below;

For Small Spills

Large or extremely toxic spills

Don appropriate personal protection Notify DPS at 852-6111; be prepared to provide the following:
Secure supplies to effect clean up * Your name
Report spill to DEHS at 852-6670 * Location of incident
* Chemical(s) involved
* Estimate quantity released.



If a spill involves radioactive material, refer to the emergency procedures in the Radiation Safety Manual or call the Radiation Safety Office at 852-5231.

Department of Environmental Health And Safety

Main Office

1800 Arthur Street

Louisville, Kentucky 40208


tel (502) 852-6670

fax (502) 852-0880

Department of Environmental Health And Safety

Radiation Safety Office

319 Abraham Flexner Way

Louisville, Kentucky 40202


tel (502) 852-5231

fax (502) 852-8911

Office Hours

M-F 8:00 am to 4:30 pm

No holiday hours

IH Service Account

IBC Service Account