Lesson Learned: Formamide Spill

Lesson Learned: Formamide Spill

Quick Summary

  • Hazardous chemical spills onto exposed skin

Incident description

EH&S received an on-call relating to a chemical spill. An individual was working on their research when they had to open a vial. The vial was more full than they had anticipated and a few drops (4-5) of the contents fell on their ankle. The contents of the spill were 80% formamide along with blue dye. The dye stains were visible on the site of the skin which was exposed to the drops. The exposed area was therefore washed for 15 minutes under water and the person was referred to medical services on campus. Formamide may lead to skin irritation, however, upon checking in with the person hours later, they were doing fine with no perceived acute health effects. They subsequently called the Poison Control Center for guidance and submitted a departmental incident report.

What went right?

The individual was wearing a lab coat, full pants, closed-toed shoes, and gloves which prevented them from furthering exposing their skin from exposure to formamide. They also took the appropriate actions by immediately inspecting if any of the spilled contents interacted with any parts of their skin. They immediately proceeded to wash the exposed area and alerted the appropriate parties for further guidance. They understood the risks and took timely actions. They called the EH&S on-call number (530-752-1493).

What should have been done differently?

Some of their skin was exposed in the ankle area as a result of wearing ankle socks. The ankle socks partially exposed the skin between the long pants and shoes, leading to the exposure.

How to prevent this in the future:

Moving forward, the individual plans to be more mindful of ensuring all skin is well covered, including the donning of longer socks while working in the lab. In addition, they expressed that they will be more cautious while opening such vials and inspect the fullness prior to moving forward with that step. This incident was a demonstration of an unanticipated risk, however, given the knowledge and training the individual possessed, they were able to navigate the situation successfully. It is always important to plan ahead when conducting research and anticipate the actions required to prevent or control injuries and exposures through training, education and situational awareness.


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