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Management of Osmium Tetroxide Spills

To ensure personnel handling spills of osmium tetroxide are not exposed to high concentration of vapor or contaminate their skin.

Applicability: This policy applies to all laboratories using osmium tetroxide at Columbia University Health Sciences.

Scope: Osmium tetroxide is normally purchased as four percent aqueous solution in 5 mL vials. Before use, it is further diluted with water in 1:4 ratios and is commonly used under the chemical fume hood due to its high toxicity, OSHA PEL 0.002 mg/M3.

Procedure: When responding to osmium tetroxide spill or other situation where the potential for osmium tetroxide exposure or skin contamination exists, a quick preliminary assessment shall be made to determine the nature of spill, amount spilled, Environmental factors in the area such as temperature, humidity, air flow current, etc., to select the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Advise the area supervisor to evacuate the area as soon as possible, without creating panic.

Small Spills - When the spills is manageable, quantity spilled is less than 2 mL, lab personnel will:

  • Don appropriate PPE (at a minimum use double gloves, tyvek suite, safety glasses).
  • Place an absorbing material or pad carefully on the spill and wait a few minutes.
  • Scoop the material up and place it in a sealed plastic bag. Remove PPE carefully and place it in the bag.
  • Label the bag with appropriate color-coded “hazardous chemical waste” label and write osmium tetroxide clearly on the label.
  • EH&S will arrange for pick-up and appropriate disposal through an approved vendor.

Large Spills - When the quantity spilled is greater than 2 ml, lab personnel will:

  • Advise the area supervisor to evacuate the area as soon as possible, without creating panic.
  • Close all doors leading to lab. Place OSMIUM TETROXIDE SPILL; DO NOT ENTER sign on the door to inform others of the spill.
  • Call EH&S at 305-6780 (CUMC) or 854-8749 (MS) immediately. DO NOT USE THE PHONE IN YOUR LAB TO MAKE THE CALL). On nights and weekends call Security at 305-7979 (CUMC) or 854-5555 (MS).
  • Provide EH&S with as much information as possible.
  • EH&S will arrange for clean up and disposal through an approved vendor.

Medical Surveillance: Under usual circumstances medical evaluation is not necessary. However, in the case of skin contamination and/or possible personal exposure including symptoms such as eye irritation, the personnel must visit the Occupational Health Service (OHS) for medical evaluation at CUMC, or Saint Luke’s Hospital Emergency Room at MS. An Incident Form must be completed.

Responsibility: The supervisor is responsible to ensure that this policy is adhered to.