Time is of the essence whenever there is a chemical spill. Some substances cause immediate and obvious chemical burns, but the damage done by others isn’t felt for some time after a person is exposed. This is why it is important to treat any exposure immediately, using the following steps:
Remove Victims from the Spill Site
People who have been exposed to hazardous chemicals not only need to get away from the source of the spill, but also get out into fresh air. If it’s not possible to go outside, the person should at least be taken to another part of the building. If they’re unconscious, first responders might need to begin CPR or rescue breathing.
Clean Eyes and Skin
Eyes need to be immediately flooded with water. The affected area should be rinsed with water for at least 15 minutes. The water can be from a faucet, a low-pressure garden hose, a cup, a bottle of drinking water, or anything else that allows water to flow out. The victim might be in such pain that they’ll want to keep their eyes shut, but they need to be open. Someone should hold them open if necessary.
The skin should also be thoroughly flooded with water if it has been exposed to chemicals. The exceptions are if the skin was burned by dry lime, carbolic acid, or hydrofluoric acid. Dry lime has to be brushed off. If it comes into contact with water, it forms a corrosive liquid. Wash the skin with water only after all of the lime has been removed. Carbolic acid and water don’t mix. This acid needs to be washed off by alcohol followed by water, but only if the skin is unbroken. Hydrofluoric acid should be treated with a paste of baking soda and water before the skin is washed. When water is added to sulfuric acid it produces heat, but this is better than not treating the burn. Soap and water can be used if the burn isn’t severe.
Get Medical Attention
If the exposure is serious, medical help should be called even as the victim is being given initial first aid. Professionals such as emergency medical technicians are trained in the assessment and treatment of burns, including those caused by chemicals. They can also deal with exposure to toxins. If the victim has injuries that are beyond the abilities of first responders to treat, the patient will be transported to a medical facility as soon as possible.
Quick action is required when a person is exposed to a chemical spill. Taking the correct action can save them from debilitating injury — and in some cases, it might also save their life.