Emergencies, Injuries, and Spills

At St. Olaf College we strive to have properly educated and trained individuals so that we never have any laboratory injuries, spills, or emergencies.  However, it is prudent to be prepared should something go wrong.  This site can not possibly provide complete information for all incidents, but it will serve as a guide for what to do should an incident occur.


General Instructions if there is a Spill, Injury, or Emergency:

1. Get Help!
 You are not alone so don’t try to “fix” the problem by yourself — call for help, there are others in the building who will quickly come to your aid.



2. Stay with Victim
 Unless doing so would put a second person’s health in danger, have someone stay with the victim at all times.  Keep the victim reassured and watch for signs of shock.



3. Public Safety & EMTs
 STO has trained student EMTs who will assist Public Safety on all calls, and the Northfield Hospital Emergency Room is located just minutes away.



4. Bring the SDS
 If medical help is needed for a chemical exposure then provide a copy of the appropriate SDS to the attending physician.  Access the SDS via the MSDSOnline system or make a photocopy using the printed SDS in the MSDS binders.



5. Injury Report Form
 After the incident has settled down, any injured individual will be required to fill out a First Report of Injury Form and submit it to the Chemical Hygiene Officer, who will then forward it to Human Resources.


Specific Instructions for:

Cuts, Sharps, Needlesticks
  • Minor Cuts
  • Tell your Instructor/Supervisor.
  • Flush the wound with tepid running water to remove any possible chemical contaminants.  Do not assume that the cut is clean.
  • For a cut on a gloved hand:
    • If you do not suspect that the cut has been injected with chemicals, do not immediately remove the glove. First rinse off the glove to avoid contamination of the cut with chemical, then remove the glove.
    • If you do suspect that the cut has been injected with chemicals, then immediately remove the glove and flush the wound with tepid water.  Squeeze the cut to potentially force out the chemical.
  • Apply a sterile bandage and advise the victim that he or she should report any signs of infection to a physician.  The 1st Aid kit in the lab contains triple antibiotic ointment and adhesive bandages.
  • If there is a possibility that the wound is contaminated by broken glass or chemicals, the victim should seek immediate medical attention at STO Student Health Services.
  • Severe Cuts (i.e., any cut that can’t be tended to with a simple band aid or that does not stop bleeding after a short while)
    • GET HELP!
      • Tell your instructor, supervisor, stockroom manager, CHO, someone.  Do not try to take care of this by yourself.
      • Call Public Safety (786-3666) since we have trained student EMTs who can respond quickly.
    • Apply sterile gauze pads to the wound.
      • If necessary, apply direct pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding.
      • Apply additional pads if the blood soaks through the first sterile pad. Do not remove the original pads.
      • Elevate the extremity if possible.
  • Needlesticks, Sharps, or Suspected Chemical/Biological Injection
    • If you suspect that the wound is contaminated by a hazardous chemical or biological substance, immediately call Public Safety (786-3666) to get transported to the hospital so that a qualified physician can inspect the wound.  Bring a copy of the Safety Data Sheet if possible.

 



Broken Glass
  • Do not pick up broken glass with your fingers! Get a broom and dust pan (forceps can also work to pick up the larger pieces).  Sweep the broken glass into the dust pan and dump it into the specially marked Broken Glass containers provided in each lab, or bring the glass to the RNS 341 stockroom for disposal in the Broken Glass container.

 



Thermal Burns
  • No Ointments or Ice. Do not apply ointments or ice to the wound.
  • First Degree Burns (equivalent to sunburn; without blisters; skin is red, and dry, painful).
    • Cool the burn with cool running water for at least 10 minutes. The faster and longer a first degree burn is cooled, the less the impact of the injury.
    • Loosely cover with a damp clean dressing if further medical care is needed.
    • Seek medical attention at STO Student Health Services if the burned area blisters, or if you notice increased redness, swelling, or pain.
  • Second or Third Degree Burns (2° = skin is red/pink and moist, painful; 3° = skin is leathery, dry, no elasticity, charred appearance, very little pain).
    • Seek Medical Help Immediately!
    • Do not flush with water.
    • Cover the burned area with a cool, moist, bandage or clean cloth.
    • If clothing is stuck to the burned skin do not remove the clothing since this may result in additional damage.

 



Chemical or Electrical Burns
  • Seek Medical Help!  Even minor burns can do unseen damage to internal tissues, so it is prudent to seek medical attention for even a minor chemical or electrical burn.
  • Chemical Burn.
    • Immediately flush the affected area with tepid running water for 15 minutes.
  • Electrical Burn.
    • Do not touch an “electrified person” with your hands; unplug the appliance or turn off the main power switch if you suspect that someone is still electrified.  The circuit breakers are located in the hallway outside of the lab.
    • Try to remove the person from the electrical source, if you cannot turn the power off.  Do this only if you can do so safely by standing on a dry surface, such as a rubber doormat or a pile of books, or by using a dry wooden object, such as a broom handle, to push the person away from the electrical source.  Do not use anything wet or made of metal.  Do not stand in or near water.
    • Check to see if the person responds to touch or being talked to after separating him or her from the electrical source.  Electrical burns can affect the electrical activity of the heart and cause heartbeat changes.
    • Rinse the burns with water, and apply a bandage.  There may be burns where the electrical current entered the body and where it left the body.

 



Cold/Cryogenic Burns
  • Seek Medical Help Immediately!  Tissue contact with cryogenic liquids produces damage similar to that associated with thermal burns and can cause severe deep-freezing with extensive destruction of tissue.
  • Flush affected areas with large volumes of tepid water to reduce freezing.
    • DO NOT APPLY HEAT.  Tissues that have been frozen show severe, widespread cellular injury and are highly susceptible to infections and additional trauma.  Therefore, rapid re-warming of tissues in the field is not recommended if transportation to a medical facility will be delayed.
  • Loosen any clothing that may restrict circulation.
  • Cover the affected area with a sterile protective dressing or with clean sheets if the area is large, and protect the area from further injury.
  • Note that frozen tissues are painless and appear waxy with a pallid yellow color.  Tissues become painful and edematous upon thawing and the pale color turns to pink or red as circulation of blood is restored.
  • If Body Temperature has Dropped: If the body temperature is depressed, the patient must be warmed gradually.  Shock may occur during the correction of hypothermia.  Cardiac dysrhythmias may be associated with severe hypothermia.


Fire (in lab or on you)
  • Clothing on fire.
    • Don’t run!  It will only fan the flames and make the fire worse!
    • Walk quickly to the nearest safety shower and pull down on the handle, or
    • STOP moving, DROP to the ground (lie down!), and ROLL on the ground to squash out the flames!  YELL continuously to get others’ attention.
    • Note: If you are trying to help a person who is in this sort of trouble, get them to the safety shower but do not use a fire extinguisher!  You must never use a fire extinguisher on a human being.  The chemicals in the extinguisher can be harmful.
  • Small, confined fire in lab.
    • If you have a small fire in a container, (for instance, a small beaker full of alcohol has caught fire) find something you can use as a lid for the container. When the container is covered, the fire will quickly burn itself out.
    • Call for help.
  • Small, open fire in lab.
    • If you have a small fire that is not in a container, move away from the fire and SHOUT FOR HELP!
    • You can use a fire extinguisher to put the fire out.
      • PULL the pin.
      • AIM the nozzle at the BASE of the fire (where the fire meets the fuel), but at the side of the fire at first.
      • DEPRESS the handle.
      • SWEEP the spray from side to side across the base of the fire, not just at the flames!
      • When the fire is out, clean up the area.
  • Large fire in lab.  SHOUT FOR HELP and GET OUT!  Evacuate the building immediately!  Pull the fire alarm if it is not already sounding.  Call 911.  ALERT OTHERS to where the fire is.
  • Fire Alarm.  If a fire alarm sounds you must evacuate the building immediately!
    • Walk calmly out the lab door, go to the nearest stairwell/door and exit the building.
    • Do not take the elevator.

 



Chemical Spills
  • Did it Get on You/Others?
    • Make sure that chemicals did not get on you or others.
    • If a chemical did splash onto someone then take care of that person before dealing with the spill (or have someone attend to the individual while the spill clean up begins).
  • Is is Hazardous?  Is it an Inhalation Hazard?
    • During your hazard analysis that was done prior to any lab work you will already know if  and how a spilled chemical represents a hazard (health or physical).
    • If there is an inhalation hazard then evacuate the space.
    • Remove affected persons only if it is safe for you to do so.
  • Alert Others.  Tell your Instructor/Supervisor.  They will either help you or take over.  Alert all other individuals in the laboratory and the general vicinity of the spill.
  • Increase Room Exhaust.  If the spill occurred inside a fume hood then press the Emergency Exhaust Button to increase exhaust flow.  If the spill occurred on a bench top and there is an exhaust snorkel within reach then maneuver the exhaust snorkel over the spill, or use press the fume hood Emergency Exhaust Button and open the sash to allow air to be exhausted from the room.
  • Small Spills (< 300 ml) can usually be safely and adequately cleaned up.
    • Corrosives generally can be neutralized and then sewered.  Consult the CHO or Stockroom Managers if you are unsure.
    • Other spills can be absorbed using paper towels or the spill kits that are distributed throughout many laboratories and are also present in every stockroom (next to the Eyewash/Shower Station).  Use the absorbent (kitty litter) to first create a perimeter around the spill to contain it, then cover the remaining spill with additional absorbent or paper towels.
  • Large Spills (>300 ml) and Nitric Acid.
    • Call for Help!  Do not attempt to clean up large spills by yourself.
    • Close doors/confine the area.  Alert people in neighboring spaces so that they do not enter.
    • Immediately tell the CHO and Stockroom Managers (if they are not already on the scene).
  • Collect the Waste.  Gather all contaminated materials and dispose as hazardous waste.
    • Wear personal protective equipment that is appropriate to the degree of hazard of the spilled substance.
    • If the spill is located on the laboratory floor, be aware that some absorbents can create a slipping hazard.
    • Be sure to soak up chemicals that have seeped under equipment and other objects in the laboratory.
    • After the chemical spill has been wiped up, rinse the area with water (if compatible) to make sure that all residual chemicals have been removed
    • Obtain an appropriate waste container, hazardous waste sticker, and Hazardous Waste Log Sheet.
    • HW Log Sheets can be downloaded here, or obtain one from the RNS 341 window.
    • Bring the waste container and HW Log Sheet to RNS 341.
  • Flammable Solvents of Low Toxicity (e.g., diethyl ether and tetrahydrofuran).
    • Extinguish all flames.
    • Increase vent exhaust by turing on the exhaust snorkels and/or pressing the fume hood Emergency Exhaust Button and opening the sash to allow air to be exhausted from the room.
    • Use your judgement with stir/heat plates.  Switching these items off/on produces a small spark so it may be best to not touch the equipment’s on/off switch; instead, unplug the device.  If necessary, turn off the power to the laboratory at the circuit breaker box that is in the hallway outside of the lab (the ventilation system will remain operational since it is not controlled by the hallway circuit breakers).
  • Highly Toxic Materials (e.g., dimethylmercury and hydrofluoric acid).
    • DANGER!!  Alert all other workers in the laboratory and the general vicinity of the spill and immediately evacuate the area.
    • Inform the CHO and Stockroom Manager.  Do not attempt to clean up the spill.  They will evaluate the hazards that are involved with the spill and will take the appropriate actions.  Professional hazardous waste contractors may be the only persons authorized to decontaminate the area and dispose of the contaminated waste.

 



Chemical on Face
  • YELL for Help!  If the goggles have protected your eyes, DON’T TAKE YOUR GOGGLES OFF JUST YET!
    • Immediately go to the eyewash station and first rinse your face quickly with the goggles still on, then remove the goggles and continue to rinse your face.
    • Continue to flush the affected area with tepid running water for 15 minutes. 
  • If you were not wearing goggles, you may not be able to see well enough to get to the eye wash station on your own.
    • YELL for Help! and cooperate with anyone who comes to your aid.
  • Call for paramedics or (for lesser injuries) have Public Safety drive the victim to the Northfield Hospital Emergency Room.
    • Chemical splashes of strong corrosives or dewatering agents (e.g., ethanol) can result in chemical burns or other eye damage and are to be treated with the utmost concern and speed.
    • Do not wait for symptoms (such as pain) to develop.
  • Use the eyewash if you even suspect that chemicals may have come in contact with an eye, face, or head.
  • To the Helper:  Be aware that you may need to help hold the victim’s head close to the eyewash, and may even need to use your fingers to hold the eyelids open so that water can thoroughly rinse the eye socket.

 



Chemical on Body
  • YELL for Help!  
  • Immediately flush the affected area with tepid running water for 15 minutes.  Chemical splashes of strong corrosives can result in chemical burns and are to be treated with the utmost concern and speed.
  • Use the sink faucet if: a hand or only a portion of the lower arm is affected.
  • Use the safety shower if: an extensive part of an arm or leg or any part of the torso is affected.
  • Remove all affected clothing. Now is not the time for shyness.
    • Once the victim is in the safety shower being drenched with water, help him/her remove the affected pieces of clothing and jewelry.  The victim may not be capable of removing their own clothing; they may need your help.
    • Have all others leave the room except for perhaps 1-2 people who can stay behind to hold fire blankets up to allow the victim some additional privacy while they continue to be flushed with water.
  • No Ointments. Do not apply ointments, baking soda, or ice to the affected skin.


Acute Exposure to a Chemical
  • Call 911! Seek Medical Help Immediately!
    • Your Laboratory Supervisor will inform and instruct you if you might come in contact with any chemical that could cause an acute exposure.
  • Medical Management Guidelines (MMGs) for Acute Chemical Exposures.
    • http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/MMG/index.asp
    • Although lab employees are not normally trained as emergency healthcare professionals, the Laboratory Supervisor is still strongly encouraged to provide the appropriate MMG to all lab workers, and ensure that the lab workers are familiar with all relevant parts of the MMG.
    • MMGs were developed by the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (U.S. Dept. Health & Human Services) “to aid emergency department physicians and other emergency healthcare professionals who manage acute exposures resulting from chemical incidents. The MMGs are intended to aid healthcare professionals involved in emergency response to effectively decontaminate patients, protect themselves and others from contamination, communicate with other involved personnel, efficiently transport patients to a medical facility, and provide competent medical evaluation and treatment to exposed persons.”

 



Ingestion – Seek Medical Help Immediately
  • DO NOT WASTE TIME!  Immediately call 9-911 and the Poison Control Center at 9-1-800-764-7661, and consult the SDS for the appropriate action.
  • Do not encourage vomiting except under the advice of a physician.
  • Save all chemical containers and a small amount of vomitus, if possible, for analysis.

 



Unconsciousness, Convulsions, Faintness, Difficulty Breathing
  • Call 9-911 (from campus phone) if you notice an individual who is unconscious or is convulsive.
  • If it is safe for you to enter the area:
    • If the victim is unconscious: Place the victim on his or her back and cover the torso and extremities with a blanket. Do not attempt to remove the victim from the area unless there exists an immediate danger. Clear the area of any chemical spill or broken glassware.
    • If the victim is convulsing: Remove anything that might cause harm to the victim. Try to protect the victim from further danger with as little interference as possible. Clear the area of any chemical spills or broken glassware.
    • If the victim begins to vomit, turn the head so that the stomach contents are not aspirated into the lungs. 
  • Dizziness, Difficulty Breathing.  If you notice someone who looks unsteady on their feet, or experiencing dizziness or shortness of breath then help them to fresh air. If their condition does not improve then call Public Safety or 911.
  • Fainting.  If a student is unconscious and breathing, put them in the Recovery Position and call Public Safety.  If they are not breathing, call 911 right away.


Biological Exposure or Spills: Response, Decontamination & Clean-Up