Spill and Breakage Procedures

How to deal with spills or sharp materials in the Shop

Reviewed by Bil Hays 10/02/2016


  • Emergencies: 911
  • UNC EHS: (919) 962-5507

Many chemical spills are of limited hazard potential and can be safely cleaned up by personnel on site. In general, the Department of Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) should be called if the spill presents a respiratory hazard, or otherwise poses a threat of fire or explosion. EHS should be called if the spill is:

  • more than 100 ml of an OSHA regulated chemical carcinogen or a highly toxic chemical; or,
  • more than 1 liter of a volatile or flammable solvent
  • more than 1 liter of a corrosive (acid or base) liquid

At the time of this writing, the only chemical we have in that meets those criteria is Isopropyl Alcohol, as we have about 4 liters in the cabinet. We do have small quantities of oil, paint, and cleaners, however.


There may be some spills that are more hazardous and clean up should not be attempted by Computer Services personnel. This event should be very unlikely as we do not keep such materials on hand, but if you are in doubt as to what to do, please evacuate the room and contact the Department of Environment, Health and Safety immediately.

In the event of major uncontrolled incidents such as fire, major releases of hazardous chemicals to the environment, or life threatening injuries, 911 should be called immediately. If you can safely retrieve the MSDS binder, please do so and hand that over to EHS or other emergency personnel when they arrive.


  1. Leave and Control Spill Area
    Evacuate personnel from the immediate spill area.
    Block off immediate spill area-close corridor doors, use lab carts, wastebaskets, etc. We also have some caution tape in a cabinet in the shop.
    Eliminate any fire hazard especially if spill is flammable or combustible- turn off burners, electrical equipment, etc.
    Post sign, “Spill Area – Keep Out”
    Alert other personnel in laboratory and adjacent areas of a chemical spill including the PI or Instructor.
  2. Help Injured Personnel
    Take care of injured personnel-move from spill, remove contaminated clothing, flush skin with water. There is a first aid kit in the Shop, and one in the Catering Kitchen area of FB135.
    Call 911 to seek medical attention if chemical is splashed in eyes, and/or there are burns or respiratory problems.
  3. Evaluate Hazard
    Make preliminary evaluation of hazard and identification of risks and decide whether the Department of Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) should be called. If there is any doubt, call them.
  4. If the Spill is Small and Presents No Danger
    We have a spill kit, safety glasses and gloves in the Shop on the EHS shelf, use those to cleanup up the material.
    Place all cleaning materials and the gloves into a plastic bag from the kit.
    Seal the plastic bag, label it as to the contents, and put the bag into the plastic pail.
    Contact EHS for advice and pickup.
    Replace used materials in spill kit.
  5. Critique Incident
    Critique incident to prevent further spills and improve response procedures.


In the evident of broken glass or other sharp materials such as metal shavings, nails, or blades, which do not involve chemicals, please sweep up the material and put it first in a plastic bag. Then either put the bag immediately in the trash dumpster outside the building, or into an appropriate container such as a cardboard (not corrugated!) box, seal with tape, and place in a trashcan. Do not place sharp materials loose in trash cans as that poses a danger to other staff. If in doubt, contact bil, Mike Carter, or Jim Mahaney on disposal of sharp items.