Earlier this year Chemmat lent a hand to the Civil & Environmental Department to help clean up a significant chemical spill incident in their laboratory. Although this was a team response, it met the threshold to be nominated for an award in the Health, Safety & Wellbeing category at the May 2019 Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence Awards.

Chemmat Technician Peter Martin commented on the spill:

You may observe from the photo that there was a large volume of liquid on the floor. This resulted from the overhead shower being activated to decontaminate the person who was splashed with the contents of a dropped Winchester containing Dichloromethane.

It was an interesting situation to say the least and the adrenaline quickly kicked in and thoughts were racing, such as:

Where is the MSDS? What is the toxicity and flammability, and any other hazards? Should we activate the alarm?

The mini 1 page MSDS has no apparent combustion hazard alert! The full 10 page MSDS states “is a combustible liquid under certain circumstances even though there is no measurable flash point and it is difficult to ignite”.

Someone appears with a domestic-type wet and dry vacuum cleaner. Meanwhile, liquid has migrated to the laboratory below. More thoughts started racing:

Does evacuation of labs need to be extended and entry controlled? Where are our respirators? Where are our additional spill kits and spare absorbent material? Where are we going to place the numerous 10 litre containers of waste?

Yes, the blood pressure was only going in one direction!

Reflections and learnings? Numerous!!

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