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What happens when a chemical substance is spilled? This information, while hopefully never becomes necessary, is located within the Safety Data Sheet. It is prudent to be familiar with chemical risks and know what to do in case of a spill or emergency.

The middle sections of the SDS address what could possibly go wrong with the chemical. Section 4 examines the first-aid measures to follow while Section 5 covers the fire-fighting measures that must be provided. Section 6 addresses “accidental release measures,” or any spill, leak, or release of the chemical at hand. This section uncovers how to properly handle containing and cleaning up the chemical. These recommendations are given with the goal of preventing or at the very least minimizing exposure to people, goods, and the environment. If the amount of chemical spilled poses a significant hazard, there might be an additional set of instructions provided for “large” spills.

Personal precautions are required information in the SDS. This includes personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn that prevents the skin and eyes from being contaminated. Additionally, you might be instructed to remove the ignition source or provide enough ventilation, depending on the chemical.

If emergency procedures are necessary, these are also listed in this section. If the chemical is dangerous, evacuations might be mandatory, with instructions given on how to best handle the situation. Expert consultants may also need to be employed, depending on the degree of release present. It is important to note that not all chemicals require these extreme measures, but ultimately safety comes first.

After a spill, the chemical must be contained, to prevent spreading any further. An example of a containment guideline is “Contain with dikes or absorbent to prevent migration to sewers/streams.” Once the chemical has been contained, it obviously requires cleaning up. Cleanup procedures include techniques for neutralization, decontamination, pumping, vacuuming, and using absorbent materials. The amount of chemical spilled typically determines which cleanup technique is used. For example, if a large amount is spilled pumping and vacuuming is usually suggested. Small spills generally are cleaned up with a dry chemical absorbent.

It is critical to properly contain and cleanup any chemical spill or leak. Contamination of water or contact with the environment or people needs to be minimized as much as possible.

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