From: Paul Harrison <pharriso**At_Symbol_Here**UNIVMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Methylene Chloride Spill Response
Date: July 17, 2012 1:15:44 PM EDT
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: <CAN0bzO4yQ9xBovi5tuJxQ=o=rNrFzjdirEre=UdoMVQnxQjzrQ**At_Symbol_Here**>

FYI, we had a situation a few years back where someone was bringing 4 bottles of 4 L each of methylene chloride up on a cart in the elevator. The bottles were packaged in the cardboard box in which they were shipped. The wheel caught on the exit to the elevator and all 4 bottles broke simultaneously. As it happened this was just outside my office. The cardboard packaging was effectively useless as an absorbent, and solvent ran everywhere. With the amount of vapour released, the aroma was over-powering, and we pulled the fire alarm to evacuate the building. We headed for the arrival point for the fire truck and let them know what happened, especially that the solvent was non-flammable. They tried not to look too disappointed, but took things in their stride, donned respirators, and checked the situartion out. The building was re-opened once the vapour had diffused, probably about 10-15 mins.

The elevator was not used as a matter of principle once the fire alarm was sounded. But I would strongy advise not having anyone use it in similar circumstances, given the level of vapour we experienced.

I would certainly recommend evacuation based on this experience. We now REQUIRE safety carriers for all bottles over 500 mL, as a result of this incident.

Overall, quite an event, but I shudder to think of what might have been had the solvent been flammable, ether perhaps????


On Tue, 17 Jul 2012 10:54:02 -0400
Allen Niemi wrote:
I'd like to get some feedback from those of you with chemical spill
response backgrounds. Given a busy 7-story mixed classroom and laboratory
building with a single central hallway running the full length of the
building (long rectangular building), and someone spills four liters of
methylene chloride on the hallway floor during regular business hours,
right in front of the elevators - some of the liquid and much of the vapor
is running down the elevator shaft. Is there anyone out there who would not
immediately evacuate the building? Would you use the fire alarm pull
station to initiate an evacuation? If not, would you take other immediate
actions to shut down the elevators?

There are several other response actions that would, obviously, be taken
but I'm mostly interested in the building evacuation and elevator aspect.

I'm working on a spill response procedure and would like to hear from
others before I make a final recommendation.

Allen Niemi, PhD
Occupational Safety and Health Services
Room 322 Lakeshore Center
Michigan Technological University
Phone: 906-487-2118
Fax: 906-487-3048

Paul Harrison
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
McMaster University
1280 Main St. W., Hamilton, ON, L8S 4M1, Canada
Phone: (905)525-9140 ext. 27290; FAX: (905)522-2509

Previous post   |  Top of Page   |   Next post

The content of this page reflects the personal opinion(s) of the author(s) only, not the American Chemical Society, ILPI, Safety Emporium, or any other party. Use of any information on this page is at the reader's own risk. Unauthorized reproduction of these materials is prohibited. Send questions/comments about the archive to
The maintenance and hosting of the DCHAS-L archive is provided through the generous support of Safety Emporium.