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New YNHHS hazardous materials spill policy standardizes response 

If you came upon a potentially hazardous spill in a hallway, would you know what to do? If not, would you know who to call or where to find help?

Information on handling all types of spills – from non-emergency chemical or biological spills to major spills involving radioactive materials – is as close as the employee intranet. Yale New Haven Health’s new Hazardous Materials Spill Response policy was recently added to the Policies Manager section, where it is available for easy download. 

How to handle a spill 

Immediate steps to take in the event of any spill – if it does not pose a hazard to do so:

  1. Contain the spill, using spill pads or absorbent materials without coming into contact with the hazardous substance.
  2. If possible, isolate the area immediately surrounding the spill.
  3. Determine what material was spilled and the approximate quantity.
  4. Locate the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for the material spilled.

To find out if a substance is potentially hazardous, access the new online Salute SDS library, which contains data sheets describing every material stored or used in any YNHHS facility. Click the Resources tab on the intranet and the Salute SDS Program link. 

“This policy educates all staff on what to do if they discover a spill, or if a spill occurs in their area,” said MaryKristin Ivanovich, environmental program manager, Corporate Facilities. Ivanovich is co-chair of the Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, part of the Emergency Management, Safety and Security Council. 

“This is a systemwide policy that we didn’t have before,” she said. “Previously, each delivery network followed its own policies. This new policy standardizes the spill response across the health system.” 

The new policy outlines additional steps for both non-emergency spills and emergency spills of chemical, pharmaceutical, radiologic and biological hazardous materials that YNHHS uses, as well as for mercury spills.

“We have many hazards throughout the health system,” said Gina Bliss, sterile compounding consultant, Yale New Haven Hospital Pharmacy, and co-chair of the Hazardous Materials Subcommittee.

“They come in many different forms – from facility chemicals to lab chemicals to medications.” 

Medication spills, for example, require a different response than a mercury spill, which can cause serious health problems even in small amounts.

“We do not have to activate the fire department for a medication spill, but we do want to ensure that staff cleaning up medication spills are wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment and using the appropriate supplies,” Bliss said.

YNHHS’ Compounding Charter Committee developed standard operating procedures that align with the Hazardous Spill Policy for a customized Medications Spill Kit. The customized Medication Spill Kits will be distributed throughout YNHHS delivery networks in the coming weeks. Customized kits for other types of spills will follow. 

“When a spill occurs, employees should ask, ‘Can I clean it up with a spill kit that I have in my area?’ If not, the spill policy and customized spill kits will advise on the next steps,” Ivanovich said. “Fortunately, hazardous spills don’t happen often, but when they do, we want to make sure that employees know where to go to find that information.”

View the YNHHS Hazardous Materials Spill Response policy on the intranet.