University Resources, Operations and Policies


Section 9

Section 9.0 Planning for Emergencies

Planning and practicing for emergencies is an essential component of laboratory safety. Workers in laboratories should have the knowledge necessary to assess their risks from a small spill or release of a chemical or a small trash-can fire, if they have received proper training. The most important aspect of this training is being able to differentiate between an incidental situation and an emergency. Practice in emergency procedures and evacuation drills will provide laboratory workers with the insight they need to make this differentiation. Contact the Fire Safety Officer (877-3437) for information on fire extinguisher training.

An incidental release is one that does not cause an imminent health or safety hazard to laboratory workers and does not have to be cleaned up immediately in order to prevent death or serious injury to employees. Laboratory workers should prepare for and handle their own incidental spills or releases.

The following is a list of life threatening situations. If any of these situations occur, the emergency procedures of the following section need to be followed.

    1. A release of high concentrations of toxic substances;
    2. A significant chemical spill;
    3. An imminent danger to life and health (IDLH) environments;
    4. A situation that presents an oxygen deficient atmosphere;
    5. A condition that poses a fire or explosion hazard;

A situation that requires immediate attention because of the danger posed to employees in the area.

9.1 Fires and Other Threatening Situations
The four actions below must be taken by whoever discovers a life threatening situation, including a fire that cannot be put out safely by someone who knows how to use a fire extinguisher. Actual emergency conditions may require the procedures to be followed in a different order, depending on the layout of the laboratory, time of day, the number of people present, and the location of the emergency relative to doors and alarm stations or telephones.

  1. Alert personnel in the immediate vicinity. Tell the nature and extent of the emergency. Give instructions to sound the alarm and call for assistance.
  2. Turn off heat source. Confine the fire or emergency without endangering yourself. Shut hood sash if possible. Close doors to prevent spread of vapors, gases, or fire.
  3. Evacuate the building or hazardous area. Use the evacuation alarm system. Follow posted evacuation procedures. Assemble at designated meeting point. Practice evacuation and assembly in drills.
  4. Summon aid from a safe location. Call security (dial 5) and call 911. Give location and type of emergency.

9.2 Clothing Fire and Severe Thermal Burns
Thermal burns from a clothing fire or large splash of hot material can be life threatening if they are deep, extensive, or located on critical areas of the body. Severe burns of the hands, feet, face, and genital areas are considered critical.

9.3 To Extinguish a Clothing Fire

  • Stop the person on fire from running!
  • Drop the person to the floor. Standing will allow flames to spreads upwand to eyes and nose.
  • Roll the person to snuff out the flames.
  • Cool the person. Remove smoldering clothing. Use cold water or ice packs to cool burns and minimize injury.
  • Get medical assistance immediately.

9.4 Chemical Splash to the Eyes or Skin
The most important emergency measures if chemicals are splashed to the eyes or skin is immediate flushing with water in the emergency eyewash and/or shower. Most splashes need at least 15 minutes of washing. Get medical assistance immediately after flushing.

9.5 Using an Eyewash

  • Always wash with tepid water or eye solution from the inside edges of the eyes to outside; this will help to avoid washing the chemicals back into the eyes or into an unaffected eye.
  • Water or eye solution should NOT be directly aimed onto the eyeball, but aimed at the base of the nose.
  • Flush eyes and eyelids with water or eye solution for a minimum or 15 minutes.
  • Immediately seek medical attention.

9.6 Using a Safety Shower

  • Stand directly under the shower head.
  • Pull handle down to activate shower.
  • Wash with tepid water for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • To turn off the shower push the handle up.

9.7 Spills and Accidents

  1. Spills of toxic substances or accidents involving any hazardous chemical should be resolved immediately. The overall steps of handling a chemical accident are briefly: 
    1. Notify your Laboratory Supervisor and the Chemical Hygiene Officer immediately.
    2. If spilled chemicals are flammable, extinguish all nearby source of ignition. 
    3. If a person has been splashed with a chemical, wash them with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes, remove all contaminated clothing, and get medical attention (call 877-3511 for Public Safety). 
    4. If a person has been overexposed to inhalation, get victim to fresh air, apply artificial respiration if necessary, and get medical attention (call 877-3511 for Public Safety). 
    5. In other cases of overexposure, get medical attention and follow the instructions of the medical professional (call 877-3511 for Public Safety). 
    6. After securing proper medical attention for a chemical exposure victim, neutralize or absorb the spilled chemical with the proper spill cleanup material, and dispose of it properly. All teaching and research laboratories must contain a spill kit for containment of solvents, acids and bases. Laboratories using equipment containing mercury must contain mercury sponges. 
  2. There are some fundamental actions which must not be used in handling emergencies. Some of them include:
    1. Do not force any liquids into the mouth of an unconscious person.
    2. Do not handle emergencies alone, especially without notifying someone that the accident has occurred.
    3. Do not apply medical aid procedures without some training in that area (except to wash with water for 15 minutes and get victim to fresh air). If you are not trained in fundamental first aid, get medical direction before inducing vomiting, giving antidotes, or applying a “neutralizer” to the skin or eyes of the victim.
    4. Do not linger at the accident scene if you are not one of the emergency responders.
  3. An Accident – Secure an Occupational Injury/Illness Report from stockroom personnel, complete, and file the form with you department chair’s office.


Joseph Landesberg, Ph.D.
Chemical Hygiene Officer
p – 516.877.4148
e –

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