Three Researchers Exposed to Barium Oxide During Spill Clean-Up

What Happened?

A researcher discovered a broken container with barium oxide powder inside a chemical storage cabinet. The researcher together with a co-worker initially attempted to clean up the spill. However, when they discovered the extent of the spill, they left the lab and contacted their supervisor. Returning to the lab, the researchers found a third lab member working in the area and asked him to leave. One of the researchers eventually complained of a dry mouth. EH&S personnel arrived in the lab and sent all three exposed lab members to the hospital for medical evaluation as a precaution.

What Was The Cause?

Improper storage (overcrowding) of chemicals likely caused the bottle to break.

What Corrective Actions Were Taken?

  • EH&S personnel was called and cleaned the spill wearing PPE recommended in the SDS for barium oxide
  • The research group received additional training regarding hazard identification, storage and proper spill clean-up procedures
  • An SOP for spill clean-up procedures was created and placed in the Lab Safety Manual

How Can Incidents Like This Be Prevented?

When discovering a spill:

  • Ask everybody to leave the lab and identify the spilled chemical if it is safe to do so
  • Place spill signs outside doors to prevent people from entering the lab
  • Consult the SDS for the chemical before attempting a cleanup



Barium Oxide Spill; What to know

  1. Corrosive and poisonous
  2. Dispose in appropriate container
  3. Avoid skin contact, do not inhale
  4. Minimize dust formation during clean-up; spray dust down with water
  5. Report the incident to your supervisor


Barium Oxide 

Extremely hazardous to skin, eyes (can cause blindness); dust can damage lungs and GI tract