Chemical Spill-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chemical Spill

We recently had a chemical spill in Mellon Institute, with a bottle of a particularly smelly chemical hitting the floor in a 4L quantity.
I think the responses were very good in all areas: the room was quickly evacuated and the doors shut. EH&S was contacted and showed up promptly. Due to the nature of the material, most of it evaporated.
Of course, this meant that the particularly smelly material found its way through to much of the building. The chemical itself possessed a moderate hazard level, though the air testing performed indicated that levels were well below any regulatory level. But it did smell, though.
There are always lessons to be learned from an accident. One of these was to be sure the correct name of the chemical is known. We first thought the material was another, similar chemical, due to some complexity in the chemical name. This confusion caused us to believe the hazard level was lower than it turned out to be, once the correct identification was made. We also made some corrections to our process of obtaining ventilation for areas where this is needed to disperse a nasty odor.