Civil Engineering

Safety Equipment and Emergency Procedures

A variety of protective measures are available for dealing with the hazards present in the chemical laboratory. One of the simplest measures to reduce or eliminate a hazard is to substitute a less hazardous or non-hazardous material for one which presents a high level of risk. For example many older procedures may use solvents such as benzene or carbon tetrachloride for routine applications; it is now known that benzene is a potent carcinogen and that carbon tetrachloride can cause serious liver damage. Substitution of these solvents with toluene or dichloromethane may pose less risk if compatible with the procedure.

A second measure is to reduce the scale of an operation to reduce the level of risk. Smaller reactions are less likely to cause serious accidents if something goes wrong; they also produce less waste.

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3.1 Fume Hoods

The most common method to prevent exposure to hazardous chemicals by inhalation is to work in a ventilated work space provided by a fume hood. Protection is provided by air flow through the fume hood. An annual inspection and servicing is carried out on fume hoods to ensure proper operation however it is important to note that the protection offered by a fume hood can be compromised if the sash is opened too high or if the airflow is obstructed by equipment or chemicals stored in the fume hood. Keep the following points in mind when using a fume hood:

  • keep all apparatus at least six inches from the front of the hood; airflow is less likely to be impeded and vapours are less likely to escape
  • don't use the hood to store chemicals and equipment; they restrict airflow
  • hang thin paper strips from the sash to detect proper airflow
  • proper fume hood ventilation of labs requires that doors to the lab be kept closed
  • flammable liquids must only be used in fume hoods designated for this purpose
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3.2 Local Ventilation

Flexible ventilation ducts with flared openings can also be used to provide ventilation in local areas, particularly with equipment which, because of size or function, cannot be placed in a fume hood. Any equipment which releases hazardous fumes during operation must have local ventilation.

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3.3 Personal Protective Equipment

Eye and Face Protection:

The minimum requirement for eye protection is that safety glasses (or prescription glasses) fitted with side shields must be worn in labs where hazardous chemicals are in use; contact lenses are not to be worn. Safety glasses do not provide complete protection to the eyes from spills and splashes. Where more protection is required, such as when working with corrosive substances, either safety goggles or a full face shield may be recommended.


Appropriate clothing and shoes are part of your protective equipment. Short pants and open-toed shoes or sandals offer no protection from spills of hazardous chemicals. Shoes which cover the feet completely and long pants or a lab coat should be worn.


Gloves are available in a variety of materials including natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile and vinyl. Each type of material is resistant to only a limited range of chemicals therefore no single type of glove is suitable for all situations. Wearing the wrong type of glove can cause more damage by keeping chemicals in contact with your skin. Consult manufacturer's data before selecting the appropriate type of gloves.

NOTE: Disposable latex rubber gloves are permeable or reactive to a variety of chemicals including benzene, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, chromic acid, ethyl ether, hexane, methylene chloride, naphtha, nitric acid, styrene, sulphuric acid, tetrahydrofuran, toluene, and xylene. They are not recommended for use with these chemicals.


Respirators are designed to protect the wearer from hazardous vapours or dust. Wide varieties of respirators are available and are designed to deal with different substances in various situations. The use of respirators requires proper selection, fitting and training. The Department does not provide respirators consequently any use of respirators must have prior authorization and approval by your supervisor. The Environmental Technologist is available to advise on selection, fitting and training on respirators.

Hearing Protection:

Routine exposure to noise in excess of 90dB requires the use of hearing protection (i.e. ear plugs, ear muffs); for extended exposure to noise in excess of 80 dB, hearing protection is advised.

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3.4 Emergency equipment

Eyewash Fountains and Deluge Showers:

Access to this equipment must not be obstructed in any way. Eyewash fountains should be tested regularly (weekly) to ensure adequate water flow and to remove any rusty water.

If it is necessary to use any eyewash fountain, hold your eyelids open with your fingers and roll your eyes back and forth while washing them. Flush your eyes for at least 15 minutes to ensure removal of the chemical.

If it is necessary to use an emergency shower, activate the shower then remove contaminated clothing as rapidly as possible.

Fire extinguishers:

All laboratories are equipped with "C" class fire extinguishers (CO2) which are suitable for most fires except metal fires; those labs with significant quantities of pyrophoric metals are also equipped with "D" class extinguishers. These extinguishers are only designed to fight small local fires. Do not attempt to fight large fires; evacuate the building and call for professional fire fighters (telephone 36111 - Emergency Report Center).

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3.5 Emergency Procedures



Safety is the responsibility of everyone who works in the Department of Civil Engineering. This includes all faculty, staff, graduate students, researchers and visitors to the Department. These pages are intended to cover many of the common or general hazards associated with work in the Department and must be read and adhered to by everyone working in the Department. It cannot be assumed that the warnings or rules laid out in these pages are necessarily complete for dealing with specific chemical hazards; additional information or measures may be required and the appropriate information sources should be consulted. It is the responsibility of individual supervisors to ensure the necessary procedures and protocols are both established and followed in their respective work areas.

Personal safety depends upon a positive attitude towards safety as well as good, informed judgment on the part of each individual working in the department. Most health and safety problems in the laboratory can be avoided by practicing good housekeeping and common sense based upon informed knowledge of the hazards.

Monthly safety inspections of emergency safety equipment are carried out and the entire Department is inspected at least once a year. The inspections are carried by members of the Applied Science Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (hereafter referred to as the Safety Committee). Inspection reports are filed with the Department Safety Officer and posted on all safety bulletin boards. Individual supervisors or the Departmental Manager will be contacted by the Safety Committee to deal with any problems that may arise as a consequence of these inspections.

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Medical emergency:

Minor accidents involving hazardous chemicals or the malfunction and/or breakdown of equipment must be reported to your supervisor. More serious accidents must be reported to the Head of the Department and/or the Department Safety Officer as well as to your supervisor.

All accidents involving personal injury must be reported promptly to your supervisor who is responsible for ensuring that the procedures below are followed. If your supervisor is not immediately available, contact the Department Safety Officer or the Head of the Department.

  • Apply first aid (first aid kits should be available in all labs); first aid should be given by someone who has had appropriate training
  • In the case of minor injuries that cannot be satisfactorily treated by first aid alone, or if there is any doubt, the injured person shall be sent or taken to the hospital emergency room, or doctor of his/her choice. Queen's employee's should take along a completed copy of the Worker's Compensation Board "Treatment Memorandum" available from the Departmental Manager. If this form does not accompany the injured employee to the treatment centre then it must be filled out and sent to the treatment centre as soon as possible.
  • In the case of injuries that are more severe, or there is doubt about the severity of the injury, and emergency assistance is required, call 36111 from an internal phone (or 911 from an external phone). A SEVERELY INJURED PERSON MUST NOT BE MOVED without the advice of medical or ambulance personnel.
  • If it is necessary to call an ambulance, indicate the location of the injured person and the location of the nearest appropriate entrance to the building. If possible send someone to that entrance to lead the ambulance personnel to the injured person.
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For all accidents involving critical injury or death:

  • Immediately call 36111 for assistance
  • As soon as possible, notify your supervisor, the Head of the Department (or Safety Officer), and the Department of Environmental Health and Safety. The latter will notify the appropriate government agencies.
  • Do not touch anything associated with the accident, except for the purpose of saving life, relieving suffering or preventing unnecessary damage to equipment or property. The scene of an accident must be examined by the appropriate authorities
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Fire Emergency:

In the event of a fire emergency, you should be aware of the location and/or use of all fire extinguishers, fire alarms and fire exits in your area. If the fire cannot safely be controlled with a fire extinguisher, then the following actions should be taken:

  • alert all persons in the area of the fire emergency
  • leave the area while closing doors and windows (where this can be done safely)
  • pull the nearest fire alarm
  • check to ensure that the area has been evacuated then leave the building to the nearest safe location
  • phone the Emergency Report Centre (36111)
  • be available to guide the Fire Department to the location of the fire
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Chemical Spills:

All spills should be cleaned up promptly, efficiently and properly. All individuals at risk due to the spill should be warned immediately.

If the spill involves non-volatile, non-flammable and non-toxic material then it should be cleaned up as directed by your supervisor. Most cleanups of liquid spills are facilitated by the use of an absorbent material that will neutralize the liquid where appropriate. Cleanup can then be carried out using a dustpan, brush and appropriate protective equipment. The spill area should be washed following the cleanup.

If a hazardous chemical such as a flammable, toxic or highly reactive substance is spilled, immediately warn everyone in the area. Shut down all equipment and leave the area. Your supervisor should be notified immediately and will be responsible for the proper cleanup of the contaminated area. Any clothing that has been contaminated should be removed as quickly as possible and decontaminated where possible.

Waste from chemical spills must be disposed of in an appropriate manner. Contact the Environmental Technologist and/or the Department Safety Officer.