Spill Kit

Spill Kit: Hi, My school is for Years 7–12. I have a Spill Kit in place at work (stored in the prep room) which is kept in a smaller (i.e., 1/2 size) than standard-size wheelie bin. What would Assist suggest the contents/quantities of a Spill Kit be? I have 5 labs and a prep room all under the same roof (no steps). Should I have more than one? Note: each lab has a bucket of sand. Thanks, Kerry.

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Publication Date: 15 July 2015
Asked By: Kerry
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Spill Kit

Thank you Kerry for your question.  Science ASSIST has previously posted a response on the use of spill kits in school science teaching areas, so we will not repeat all of the detailed information that is given there.  For that response and a related question see: Spill kits and Mercury Spills.   

We think that the use of a small wheelie bin is a great idea, one that has been adopted by many schools.  They are often brightly coloured and so easily noticed.  They should be labelled accordingly, and their storage location should be signed. Being on wheels and easily movable reduces manual handling issues. It is also a good idea to have your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) stored at the top, so when responding to a spill you can easily access the PPE to protect yourself before attending to the spill.

In order to reduce the likelihood of a large spill, it is recommended that minimal quantities of chemicals are used in the teaching areas and that Winchester carriers are used when transporting 2.5 L bottles of concentrated acids. Science ASSIST will be developing an ASSIST Information Sheet (AIS) soon to consolidate information on this important topic.

Summary response:

Science ASSIST is unable to give you a definitive answer as to the number of emergency spill kits you require as we are not familiar with your science area. While you describe it as 5 labs and one prep area all on the same level and under one roof, we assume that there is also an adjacent chemical store room. We are unsure if you have a central preparation room surrounded by the five teaching laboratories, or whether they are all along a corridor.  If your rooms are within easy reach of a central point, you may find that one spill kit is adequate.

The contents of your spill kit will likewise be determined by a local risk assessment, and will depend on the chemicals and quantities that are stored there, and how and where they are used.  ASSIST recommends that your spill kits include the capacity to respond to both the range of chemicals that are stored and might be spilt, and the quantity that might be spilt.  The replacement of used spill kit items should also be considered.

The Science ASSIST team hopes that the following information helps to guide you through the process.  As school science areas are often similar, there is a list of suggested components and quantities at the end of this response.  The Victorian DEECD has produced a guidance sheet with contents listed see www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/school/principals/management/guid4chemspill.docx  The WA Department of Education, Regional Laboratory Technicians Group also has a list of contents for a spill kit see https://web.archive.org/web/20170219043651/http://www.rtg.wa.edu.au/Spil...(link changed to an archived copy on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine July 2017)

 

Some factors for possible consideration in a risk assessment for chemical spill kits:

  • Range of hazardous chemicals stored and used. 

Does your spill kit management plan allow for the potential range of substances that could be spilt?  This range is given in the above ASSIST response.  Your risk assessment should include the capacity to respond to possible spills of the range of chemicals that you store.

  • Quantities of hazardous chemicals stored.

Does your spill kit management plan allow for the maximum quantity that could be spilt?  In most school science situations, the largest single chemical containers are 2.5 litres, so a spill response would need to be prepared to deal with a spill of at least this size.  In many cases, this would involve the neutralisation of acids or alkalis, and absorption with pads, pillows or snakes using an absorption medium such as attapulgite, vermiculite or polyacrylamide.  As your spill kit may be required at any time, and as there would be a delay in purchasing replacement items, it would be good policy to allow for at least one spare item to be readily at hand when the spill kit one could be fully used up in one incident.  This would apply to items such as absorbent pillows or snakes, and neutralising chemicals.  It may not apply to items such as mercury spill kits where you could continue to add to them, if there are further spills.

  • Location and availability of spill kit in relation to where chemicals are stored and used.

Your risk assessment should consider whether the location of one single spill kit would adequately service all of your science teaching areas, or whether you require multiple facilities.  From the description of your facilities, that is 5 adjacent teaching areas on the one level, you may decide that one single spill kit resource is adequate for the whole area.  However, if the response time to a spill would be too long, then your risk assessment may conclude that multiple spill kits are required.  In a school science setting, rooms can sometimes be eliminated from consideration because chemicals are not used there, for example, a dedicated Physics room. On the other hand, where facilities are spread geographically across different floors or buildings, it is likely that multiple spill kits would then be needed.

Further Notes:

While it is desirable to neutralise spills of substances such as acids and alkalis, please consider the quantities of neutralising chemicals required for this purpose.  For larger spills, complete neutralisation may not be realistic, and the use of absorbent media including pillows may be more practical.  For example, for a large spill of a 2.5 litre container of concentrated acid, your spill kit may need several kilograms of sodium hydrogen carbonate.  Similarly, you would need a large volume of vinegar to neutralise a large spill of concentrated sodium hydroxide solution.

Highly absorbent polymers such as polyacrylamide are able to absorb and hold many times their own mass of liquid.  These are the materials that are used in diapers, and they are more effective than earlier absorption agents.  Pillows and sausages of these materials are available as relatively inexpensive spill control measures.

Suggested list of spill kit items

PPE

Eye protection

Wrap around type that fit over prescription glasses

Nitrile gloves

Chemical resistant

Apron or lab coat

Disposable options available

Face mask

Useful protection when sweeping dusts/powders and when handling neutralising agent powders

Other items

Dustpan and brush

For sweeping up spilt powders.

Tongs

To pick up contaminated materials, e.g. fragments of broken containers.

Plastic bags, heavy duty

To contain absorbed spills and biological waste.

Signage

For example, Do not enter: Chemical spill clean-up in progress.

Absorbent materials, pads and pillows

Select as appropriate from the following range of options.

Vermiculite

Silicate material that can absorb up to 10 times its weight of water. Good for aqueous spills, less effective for oil-based spills.

Attapulgite (“kitty litter”)

Silicate (clay) mineral that is an excellent absorption agent. Useful for oil-based spills.

Commercial chemical absorbent pads and pillows.

Available in various sizes and shapes: pads, pillows, snakes.

Super-absorbent polymers

Polymers with cross-linking to form gels that can absorb many times their weight of aqueous solutions. The material in disposable diapers.

Sand

Useful to contain a spill.

Neutralising Agents

Small spills of aqueous solutions of acids or alkalis should be neutralised before flushing down the drain.  It is not necessary to neutralise the spill to exactly pH 7; neutralisation to a pH within the range pH 6–8 is acceptable as trade waste by water authorities in Australia.  The pH can be measured with pH test strips or universal indicator solution.

Larger spills can first be contained with dry sand or vermiculite to prevent the spill spreading before treatment with a neutralising agent.

Neutralisation of concentrated acids or bases generates heat and fumes; ensure good ventilation and PPE.  In the case that good ventilation is not possible, a risk assessment might determine that it is safer to absorb the concentrated solution and store the material for collection by a waste disposal contractor.

Spills of concentrated nitric acid should not be contained/absorbed with organic materials such as paper towel or fabric as fire may result.

Acid spills

The use of carbonates and hydrogen carbonates to neutralise acids will produce effervescence and carbon dioxide.  When sufficient neutralising agent has been applied, the end of effervescence indicates that the acid has been neutralised.

Sodium carbonate

Also called washing soda, a supermarket item.

Sodium hydrogen carbonate

Also called sodium bicarbonate, bicarbonate of soda, baking soda.  This may be difficult to source in large pack sizes.

Calcium carbonate

Can be a chemical powder, or as marble chips.  If using marble chips, the reaction time will be longer due to the much smaller surface area to volume ratio.

Alkali spills

Vinegar

Good for small aqueous or powdered spills. Because of its dilution, vinegar is not effective in treating large spills as the quantity required is too great.

Citric acid,

Boric acid,

Sodium hydrogen sulfate

As solids, these are much more effective in neutralising a large alkaline spill.  They should be sprinkled on the spill after it has been contained, starting from the outside and working toward the centre. We recommend having one of these reagents in your spill kit.

Biohazard spills

Sodium hypochlorite (bleach) solution

Use this to treat hazards such as animal tissues and fluids, and microorganisms. Absorb the treated spill with vermiculite, and dispose in general waste. Also treat exposed surfaces.

Organic spills

Vermiculite

Absorb with vermiculite and place the material in a sealed, labelled container for collection by a licenced waste disposal contractor. Small spills of volatile organic liquids (< 100 mL) may be evaporated in a fume cupboard.

References:

“PIG® HazMat Chemical Absorbent Pillow” New Pig website. https://www.newpig.com/pig-hazmat-chemical-absorbent-pillow/p/HR7015 (accessed July 2015)

'Spill kits’, Science ASSIST website http://assist.asta.edu.au/question/2554/spill-kits (September 2014)

'Mercury Spills' Science ASSIST website http://assist.asta.edu.au/question/2706/mercury-spills (March 2015)

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