Safety, Health and Wellbeing

Laboratory emergency response procedures

Our role is to develop and assist in the implementation of the UWA safety, health and wellbeing programs in order to minimise the risk of injury, illness and property damage.

We provide consultancy and other services to promote best practice and legislative compliance in all University and related activities.

Further information

For emergencies, call (+61 8) 6488 2222

You should familiarise yourself with the actions that need to be taken in case of an emergency in a laboratory and if a person is affected.

  1. Medical emergency
  2. Fire emergency
  3. Chemical spill emergency
  4. Biological spill emergency
  5. Radioactive spill emergency
  6. Clothing on fire
  7. Radioactive spill on body
  8. Chemical spill on body
  9. Biological spill on body
  10. Hazardous material splashed in eye
  11. Minor cuts and puncture wounds

Medical emergency

Major

  • Remain calm.
  • Initiate lifesaving measures if required.
  • Do not move person unless there is danger of further harm.
  • Keep person warm.
  • Call for emergency response.

Minor

  • Initiate first aid.
  • Report incident.
 

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Fire emergency

Major

  • Alert people in area to evacuate.
  • Activate nearest fire alarm or call Security number.
  • Close doors to confine fire.
  • Evacuate to safe area or exit building through stairwell; do not use lift.
  • Have person knowledgeable of incident and laboratory assist emergency personnel.

Minor

  • Alert people in laboratory and activate alarm.
  • Smother fire or use correct fire extinguisher.
  • Aim extinguisher at base of fire.
  • Always maintain accessible exit.
  • Avoid smoke or fumes.
 

Further information on fire emergencies

  • Small fires can be extinguished without evacuation.
  • Fire extinguishers should only be used by trained personnel.
  • Never enter a room that is smoke filled.
  • Never enter a room containing a fire without a backup person.

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Chemical spill emergency

Major

  • Attend to injured or contaminated persons and remove them from exposure.
  • Alert people in the laboratory to evacuate.
  • If spilled material is flammable, turn off ignition and heat sources.
  • Call for assistance.
  • Close doors to affected area.
  • Have person knowledgeable of incident and laboratory assist emergency personnel.
 

Minor

  • Alert people in immediate area of spill.
  • Wear protective equipment, including safety goggles, gloves, and long-sleeve laboratory coat.
  • Avoid breathing vapors from spill.
  • Confine spill to small area.
  • Use appropriate kit to neutralise and absorb inorganic acids and bases. Collect residue, place in container, and dispose as chemical waste.
  • For other chemicals, use appropriate kit or absorb spill with vermiculite, dry sand, or diatomaceous earth. Collect residue, place in container and dispose as chemical waste.
 

Further information on chemical spills

  • The range and quantity of hazardous substances used in laboratories require preplanning to respond safely to chemical spills.
  • The cleanup of a chemical spill should only be done by knowledgeable and experienced personnel.
  • Spill kits with instructions, absorbents, reactants, and protective equipment should be available to clean up minor spills.
  • A minor chemical spill is one that the laboratory staff is capable of handling safely without the assistance of safety and emergency personnel. All other chemical spills are considered major.

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Biological spill emergency

Major

  • Attend to injured or contaminated persons and remove them from exposure.
  • Alert people in immediate area of spill.
  • Close doors to affected area.
  • Put on protective equipment.
  • Cover spill with paper towels or other absorbent materials.
  • Carefully pour a freshly prepared 1 in 10 dilution of household bleach around the edges of the spill and then into the spill. Avoid splashing.
  • Allow a 20-minute contact period for the bleach solution to be effective.
  • Use paper towels to wipe up the spill, working from the edges into the centre.
  • Clean spill area with fresh towels soaked in disinfectant.
  • Place towels in a plastic bag and decontaminate in an autoclave.
  • Have person knowledgeable of the incident and laboratory assist emergency personnel.

Minor

  • Wear disposable gloves.
  • Soak paper towels in disinfectant and place over spill area.
  • Place towels in plastic bag for disposal.
  • Clean spill area with fresh towels soaked in disinfectant.

Further information on biological spills

  • Biological spills outside biological safety cabinets will generate aerosols that can be dispersed in the air throughout the laboratory. These spills are very serious if they involve microorganisms that require Group 3 containment, as most of these agents have the potential for transmitting disease by infectious aerosols.
  • To reduce the risk of inhalation exposure in such an incident, occupants should hold their breath and leave the laboratory immediately. The laboratory should not be re-entered to decontaminate and cleanup the spill for at least 30 minutes. During this time the aerosol will be removed from the laboratory by the exhaust air ventilation system.
  • Appropriate protective equipment is particularly important in decontaminating spills involving microorganisms. This equipment includes lab coat with long sleeves, back-fastening gown, disposable gloves, disposable shoe covers, and safety goggles and mask or full face shield. Use of this equipment will prevent contact with contaminated surfaces and protect eyes and mucous membranes from exposure to splattered materials.

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Radioactive spill emergency

Major

  • Attend to injured or contaminated persons and remove him or her from exposure.
  • Have potentially contaminated personnel stay in one area until they have been monitored and shown to be free of contamination.
  • Call school radiation safety officer
  • Close doors and prevent entrance into affected area.
  • Have person knowledgeable of incident and laboratory assist emergency personnel.

Minor

  • Alert people in immediate area of spill.
  • Notify school radiation safety officer.
  • Wear protective equipment, including safety goggles, disposable gloves, shoe covers, and long-sleeve lab coat.
  • Place absorbent paper towels over liquid spill. Place towels dampened with water over spills of solid materials.
  • Using forceps, place towels in plastic bag. Dispose in radioactive waste box.
  • Monitor area, hands, and shoes for contamination with an appropriate survey meter or method. Repeat cleanup until contamination is no longer detected.

Further information on radioactive spills

  • Spreading of radiation beyond the spill area can easily occur by the movement of personnel involved in the spill or cleanup effort.
  • Prevent spread by confining movement of personnel until they have been monitored and found free of contamination.
  • A minor radiation spill is one that the laboratory staff is capable of handling safely without the assistance of safety and emergency personnel. All other radiation spills are considered to be major.

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Clothing on fire

  • Roll person around on floor to smother flame, or drench with water if safety shower is immediately available.
  • Obtain medical attention, if necessary.
  • Report incident to supervisor.

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Radioactive spill on body

  • Remove contaminated clothing.
  • Rinse exposed area thoroughly with water.
  • Obtain medical attention, if necessary.
  • Report incident to supervisor and school radiation safety officer.

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Chemical spill on body

  • Flood exposed area with running water from faucet or safety shower for at least 5 minutes.
  • Remove contaminated clothing at once.
  • Make sure chemical has not accumulated in shoes.
  • Obtain medical attention, if necessary.
  • Report incident to supervisor.

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Biological spill on body

  • Remove contaminated clothing.
  • Vigorously wash exposed area with soap and water for one minute.
  • Obtain medical attention, if necessary.
  • Report incident to supervisor.

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Hazardous material splashed in eye

  • Immediately rinse eyeball and inner surface of eyelid with water continuously for 15 minutes.
  • Forcibly hold eye open to ensure effective wash behind eyelids.
  • Obtain medical attention.
  • Report incident to supervisor.

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Minor cuts and puncture wounds

  • Vigorously wash injury with soap and water for several minutes.
  • Obtain medical attention.
  • Report incident to supervisor.

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