Science & Research

Volume III - 1.3 Emergency Response

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Food and Drug Administration



Section 1 - Environmental Health & Safety




While accidents or serious mishaps in the laboratory are rare, it is extremely important to be prepared and know what to do in case of an emergency. Laboratories are outfitted with specialized equipment and kits for chemical spills, fires, and personal injuries. Written procedures specifying what one should do in emergencies are available. Requirements for emergency evacuations can be found in the NFPA Life Safety Code and OSHA 29 CFR 1910.38.

Emergency Preparedness

  1. Know laboratory policies and procedures.
    Read the laboratory's chemical plan and evacuation plan to determine the steps needed in different emergencies. The emergency response plan and occupant emergency plan can provide useful information. These documents provide the following information: who to contact in an emergency, when and how to clean up a chemical spill, where the MSDS are located, and when one should use a fire extinguisher. If clarification is needed on any of these or other emergency procedures, ask a supervisor or chemical hygiene officer.
  2. Be familiar with laboratory surroundings.
    From the laboratory bench, know where the nearest exit(s), eyewash fountain, safety shower, MSDS, fire extinguisher, and first aid kit are located. It is a good practice to identify two exits in case one is inaccessible. Before working in a different location, identify the location all safety equipment. If anyone cannot locate any of the above-mentioned items, ask a supervisor or a co-worker for assistance.
  3. Practice.
    The best way to understand something thoroughly is to run through a mock exercise or drill. Consider instances where one may need to walk from a hood to the eyewash station if one's eyesight is impaired due to acid splashed in the eye. Know how to activate the eyewash as well as the length of time required to apply the water rinse. This exercise can also be applied an accident that would need the use of safety showers.
  4. Fire
    Be aware of the nearest fire exits. In the event of a fire, alert others to the situation. Trained, authorized personnel only use fire extinguishers, provided in the laboratory. If someone is injured, assess the situation; assist if possible. Immediately leave the area, close the doors, and leave by the nearest exit. Alert responsible fire commanders if anyone is still inside the building. Follow the laboratory's evacuation plan. Follow any special procedures in the laboratory's evacuation plan (e.g. some facilities arrange for supervisors to meet with their group outside to account for any potential missing employees). Fire drills should be held at least annually.
  5. Chemical, biological, and radiological spill kits
    Be familiar with chemical, biological, and radiological spill kits contents and their procedures for cleaning-up spills. Document the spill, the personnel exposed during the incident, and the clean-up procedure. Chemical spill clean-up procedures depend upon the type and amount of the chemical spilled. Acid and base spills can be neutralized, rendering them non-hazardous, while solvent and toxic chemical spills need to be absorbed and disposed as hazardous waste. Biological spills can be cleaned-up and disinfected with the use of chlorinated gel absorbents.

Page Last Updated: 03/18/2016
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