Laboratory Emergency Guidance

Emergency Response

Laboratory personnel should be familiar with established University policies and procedures regarding emergency situations. The Office of Environmental Health & Safety is available 24/7 to provide support to personnel during emergency and non-emergency situations including hazardous spills, injuries, exposures and near misses. All laboratory personnel must know the location of the egress routes from their research space, how to activate a fire alarm or get emergency support as needed, the location of emergency showers and eyewash stations and how to properly use them.

In the event of an emergency, including, but not limited to a chemical spill in the research laboratory, the following action should be taken:

1. Immediately alert all personnel to evacuate the laboratory.

2. Once everyone is out, close the door behind you.

3. Move to a nearby phone and contact Brown Department of Public Safety at 401-863-4111.

4. Tend to injured or contaminated personnel.

5. Stay in the general area, a safe distance away, and wait for emergency responders.

6. Make a point to introduce yourself to emergency response personnel so that if they have any questions they know who you are.

7. For emergencies involving chemicals, Safety Data Sheets are available in CEMS for Brown EMS to utilize if needed.

Always seek medical attention for injuries or exposures. You may also choose to receive medical consultation by contacting your physician or Brown University’s Health Services at 401-863-3953.

Non-Emergency Response

Laboratory personnel who believe they have had a non-emergency accident, exposure or near miss should contact EHS at 401-863-3353 and their supervisor for guidance.


Employees who are injured while working must notify their supervisor immediately and complete the Injury Report form. All injuries regardless of severity must be reported to the Insurance Office within 48 hours of injury.

As a follow up to an incident (Accident/Injury/Exposure) or near miss, an  Accident/Injury/Exposure Report form with detailed information, including Standard Operating Procedures for the task being performed, must be submitted to the laboratory supervisor and University Chemical Hygiene Officer (CHO). All information is kept confidential. Please call EHS at 401-863-3353 or email [email protected] for questions. Near misses are encouraged to be reported to the Laboratory Supervisor and the CHO for review to provide education and improvements in the protocol for future accident prevention.

Types of Incidents

The instructions that follow are intended as guidelines for untrained individuals and should be performed while waiting for medical assistance. It is preferable to have a person trained in first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to provide assistance during the first few minutes. EHS staff urges employee involvement in first aid and CPR training. Please contact Brown EMS regarding their CPR and first aid training program.

Incidents Involving Hydrofluoric Acid

Hydrofluoric acid (HF) is extremely corrosive to all body tissue and may compete for calcium in the blood and bone resulting in serious health effects, even death. Any exposure to hydrofluoric acid must be treated immediately by Brown EMS with further medical treatment necessary.

Laboratories that contain HF must have calcium gluconate gel (Calgonate Gel) to be used as an  immediate first aid treatment. If your lab has HF but does not have Calgonate Gel or if your current tube has expired, contact EHS at 401-863-3353 to obtain a new tube.

Chemical/ Biological/ Radioactive Splash to the Eye

  • Immediately flush the eye with a gentle stream of clean, temperate water for at least 15 minutes. Hold the eyelids open. Be careful not to wash the contaminant into the other eye. Always use an emergency eyewash station to irrigate the eye.
  • Notify Brown Department of Public Safety at 401-863-4111 for Brown EMS.
  • If able to, notify your supervisor.

Chemical/ Biological/ Radioactive Contamination to the Body

  • If in powder form, brush away before flushing.
  • Immediately drench skin with water and remove contaminated clothing. Flush the area for at least 15 minutes. Use an emergency shower if one is accessible.
  • Notify Brown Department of Public Safety at 401-863-4111 for Brown EMS
  • If able to, notify your supervisor.

First Aid Kits

First aid kits are optional in laboratories due to Brown’s emergency response procedure and the ability for the University to respond to an incident in a timely manner. However, a laboratory Supervisor can choose to have a first aid kit in their laboratory or a Department may choose to have a kit located in the hallways of their departmental labs. If this is the case, the kits shall be maintained by the Supervisor or Department, respectively. First aid kits should be inspected by laboratory personnel or by the Department regularly for missing supplies. Medications should never be dispensed to treat an injury or exposure by individuals other than by people legally authorized to dispense such medications. The improper dispensing of both prescription and nonprescription drugs can lead to serious medical and legal consequences. This includes the application of antiseptic solutions such as burn creams and administering aspirin. Essentially, anything with an expiration date shall not be found in a first aid kit. 

Common items found in a first aid kit include:

• Different sizes of band aids for small cuts and abrasions

• Adhesive tape

• Scissors/ tweezers

• Alcohol wipes for tool disinfection

• Roller cling gauze

• Dressings for immediate care of severe bleeding

• Disposable gloves (non-latex, larger sizes)

Spill Kits

Spill kits are to be used for incidental spills only and are optional in the laboratory. Follow the University’s Emergency Response procedure for hazardous, unknown, or large spills. Each laboratory is responsible for the selection, purchase, and maintenance of emergency spill kits adequate for the type and volume of materials used in the laboratory.