Emergency Spill Response

This section provides a summary of the steps you should take to prepare for emergencies, and what to do in case of an emergency.

In the event of a serious or life threatening medical, fire, police, outdoor hazardous materials spill, or another emergency, dial 911 from any phone. Provide as much information as possible, the specific location of the emergency, and stay safely nearby to help direct emergency responders to the scene and answer any questions.

Emergency Preparedness

  • Familiarize yourself with emergency procedures and learn how to obtain additional help in any emergency. Know how to use the emergency equipment in your work area.
  • Everyone Must Be Familiar With the Location and Use of Safety Showers, Eye Wash Equipment and Personal Protective Equipment. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the locations of these important items.
  • Ensure a first aid kit is available and well stocked, and a fire extinguisher is available. Discharged fire extinguishers must be recharged and returned to service immediately.
  • Flush eye wash stations monthly. Eye wash stations in your laboratory area should be flushed monthly, preferably on weekly basis. Document each flush check on an eyewash tag, which is available from EHS free-of-charge. EHS will verify labs are performing monthly flushes during inspections.
  • Safety showers are inspected by UVA Facilities Management personnel with the inspection date recorded and attached to the shower. Make sure the inspections are conducted on a timely basis by checking the tag in the safety shower in your area. Should the date be more than 1 year old, call Facilities Management (924-1777) and request an inspection.
  • Fire doors (which are typically labeled on the door jamb or frame) must not be normally propped open. Should this become necessary, make sure that the door is closed if you are not in the lab area for any length of time.
  • Seek advice from EHS before doors between adjacent laboratories are blocked and avoid this if possible. These will provide alternate escape routes in case of an emergency and may be required egress routes per the building code.
  • Keep aisles and exits clear, and maintain ready access to emergency eyewashes, showers, and fire extinguishers. Exits should always remain unobstructed.

For work with hazardous materials:

  • Use the buddy system, and preferably work only during regular business hours.
  • For the small number of compounds with special first aid procedures or an antidote (e.g., hydrofluoric acid or hydrogen fluoride, cyanides), review in advance with EHS and your healthcare provider.

Emergency Response – Spills

  • Promptly and completely neutralize, absorb, and bag spilled materials by the safest means possible. The Office of Environmental Health & Safety is equipped for a rapid response for toxic, flammable, or radioactive material spills, including after-hours and on weekends; if you are uncertain about the nature of the spill or on how to take care of it, call EHS at 434-982- 4911. They may authorize you to perform a spill cleanup if the hazards are insignificant. Otherwise, EHS will undertake the cleanup operation. Note: If calling EHS after- hours/weekend, you will be prompted to press ‘0’ for the University Operator. They will be able to take your report and contact the EHS person on-call for emergency spills.
  • Tell others in the area and restrict access to the spill location. If anyone has already left the area, examine the potential for contamination to have spread.
  • Identify the material(s) involved, quantity, and specific location. Review the Safety Data Sheet or contact EHS for additional information about the chemical. If anyone has already left the area, examine the potential for contamination to have spread.
  • In general, minimize air disturbances and drafts for dry powder spills, but increase ventilation by opening nearby chemical fume hood(s) for most volatile liquids.
  • In the event any property or equipment was damaged, contact the UVA Office of Property and Liability Risk Management.
  • Promptly bag and dispose of oily or solvent-saturated cleanup materials following the instructions for waste disposal given in Section X. The Environmental Health and Safety Office can determine if special containment and labeling is needed.

Report any spill, however minor, to your supervisor and the CHE safety committee.

For Minor Chemical Spills (Low Hazard, < 1 Liter)

Trained laboratory personnel can clean-up most minor spills. But do not proceed if you have any concerns about your ability to safely clean the spill – contact EHS at (434) 982-4911.

  • Confine liquid spills with absorbent materials to minimize spread.
  • Use the appropriate spill kit to absorb or neutralize the material, and work from the perimeter inwards. Collect residue with a small non-reactive shovel, scoop, dust pan, or piece of cardboard, place in heavy plastic bag or other compatible container, label contents as waste, and arrange for pick-up by EHS.

Larger or More Hazardous Chemical Spills

  • Summon emergency assistance by dialing 911 from any phone for situations that threaten life or property and give as much information as possible. Indicate that the incident involves a large or hazardous chemical spill. Activate a fire alarm pull station to evacuate the building if directed or appropriate for the situation. This may be your first action for life-threatening issues. For less serious spills, notify laboratory supervisory personnel and EHS at (434) 982- 4911.
  • Attend to any injured or contaminated persons and remove them from exposure. In case of personal contamination, remove affected clothing and rinse contaminated skin with water for at least 15 minutes.
  • If safe to do so, turn off nearby electrical equipment, shut off any open flames, sources of gas, and turn off any other equipment that could pose a hazard if left unattended.
  • Close room door(s) and safely wait nearby for emergency responders to arrive. Consider whether to evacuate a larger area.

Mercury Spills

Unless your laboratory has been provided with special training, equipment, and approval from EHS, do not attempt to clean-up a mercury spill. Instead:

  • Tell others in the area and restrict access to the spill location. If anyone has already left the area, examine the potential for contamination to have spread.
  • For spills involving more mercury than is contained in a typical laboratory thermometer, evacuate the room and close the door.
  • Notify laboratory supervisory personnel and EHS at (434) 982-4911. For mercury spills after hours, you may be asked to vacate and secure the area for response the following morning. Await safely nearby for EHS responders to arrive.

All instruments containing mercury are potential sources of poisonous mercury vapor and require special attention. Whenever possible, these devices should have a catch tray to contain spills. Mercury thermometers are not to be used in ovens. Whenever possible, mercury thermometers should be replaced with non-mercury ones. The Environmental Health and Safety Office has offered to provide replacement non-mercury thermometers at no charge.

Fire or Smoke

An uncontrolled fire in a building can spread rapidly and do a tremendous amount of damage in a short time. It is best to familiarize yourself with the building’s fire extinguishers, fire alarm pull stations, breaker boxes, eyewash/shower stations and emergency exits.

  • In general, safe egress from the emergency can be the best course of action when responding to a fire. Evacuate the building activating a pull station as you exit, notify anyone you come across as you exit and close but do not lock the doors on your way out. Follow-up with a phone call to 911 to report the fire.
  • In case of a small fire and if you have been trained to use a fire extinguisher, then you may attempt to put out the fire. When in doubt, evacuate, notify others, and call for emergency response. Note: If attempting to put the fire out, shout out for someone else to call 911 to report the fire. Even if it appears you have successfully extinguished the fire, always call 911 for emergency response regardless.
  • EHS offers an e-learning to familiarize users to the unique fire safety considerations in an academic setting. http://ehs.virginia.edu/fire-safety-training.html

Chemical Exposures

The procedures below provide basic guidance for responding to most chemical exposures. Secure or save the container(s) involved to help ensure accurate chemical identification and provide a copy of the Safety Data Sheet as soon as possible to emergency responders or the hospital.

First Aid- Chemical Splash to the Eye(s)

  • Flush the eyes(s) at the nearest emergency eyewash, forcibly holding the eyelids open to ensure effective rinsing. Continue rinsing for at least 15 minutes.
  • Follow with prompt treatment or triage by medical personnel.
  • If the situation requires emergency assistance, dial 911.

First Aid- Chemical Spills and Splashes to the Body

  • Remove any contaminated clothing or personal protective equipment.
  • Immediately rinse the affected body area(s) with water for at least 15 minutes, using the nearest emergency shower, retractable eyewash, or sink hose.
  • Follow with prompt treatment or triage by medical personnel.
  • If the situation requires emergency assistance, dial 911.

First Aid- Ingestion / Inhalation of Chemicals

  • Summon emergency assistance by dialing 911.
  • Ingestion - Do not induce vomiting or give water or other liquids unless instructed to do so by emergency responders.
  • Inhalation- Remove the exposed person to clean air and treat for possible shock by having them sit or lie down.
  • Do not return to the incident scene if you suspect that a dangerous condition persists.

Medical Information in the Event of a Chemical Exposure

When working with hazardous chemicals, appropriate engineering and administrative controls, and personal protective equipment shall always be utilized to prevent injury.

In the event of a chemical exposure, the injured person must seek medical attention in one of the following places (depending on the severity of the exposure and your physical location):

If You Are:

Faculty, staff, students paid through University Payroll:

  • UVA Academic: UVA-WorkMed 1910 Arlington Blvd (434) 243-0075
  • UVA Medical Center: UVA Employee Health 1222 Jefferson Park Ave (434) 924-2013

All other Students

  • UVA Academic: Student Health 400 Brandon Ave
    • (434) 924-5363
    • (434)297-4261 (after hours)
  • UVA Medical Center: Student Health 400 Brandon Ave
    • (434) 924-5363
    • (434)297-4261 (after hours)
  • UVA Student and Employee Health Wise Clinic (276) 376-3475 

Visiting scientists and scholars, interns, volunteers

  • UVA Academic: UVA-WorkMed 1910 Arlington Blvd (434) 243-0075
  • UVA Medical Center: UVA Employee Health 1222 Jefferson Park Ave (434) 924-2013

If after hours or high degree of injury

  • UVA or closest Emergency Room, or Urgent Care facility
  • UVA Health System Emergency Room (434) 924-2231 Lee Street, Charlottesville
  • Martha Jefferson Emergency Room (434) 654-7150 500 Martha Jefferson Drive, Charlottesville
  • 911 (if injured person cannot move or be moved)

Individuals using hazardous chemicals should also obtain medical consultation if they:

  • Develop any signs or symptoms associated with hazardous chemical exposure,
  • Are exposed to a hazardous chemical above the OSHA action level or permissible exposure limit, or
  • Experience an event such as a spill, leak, explosion, or other occurrence with a potential for exposure to a hazardous chemical.

Regardless, all chemical exposure incidents must be reported to the faculty or supervisor in charge of the lab/area, followed up with a notification to EHS. The PI or laboratory supervisor shall provide the following information to the UVA healthcare provider and the EHS Occupational Health Group (434-982-4911):

  • Identity of the hazardous chemical(s) to which the individual may have been exposed, preferably along with copies of Safety Data Sheets,
  • Description of the conditions and activities that may have resulted in potential exposure, including any quantitative monitoring data, and
  • Description of the signs / symptoms experienced, if any.

Workers’ Compensation

Injured Academic Division employees who have filed for Workers’ Compensation benefits must choose one physician for treatment of claimed, work-related injuries.

Failure to choose one of the physicians listed below may bar compensation benefits, including the cost of medical care. Employees’ Primary Care Physicians are not authorized as attending physicians on UVA’s Panel. Panel physicians will make appropriate referrals to specialists. Further Guidance can be found in Appendix G.

Panel of physicians

Contact Information: