Pyrophoric Chemicals


Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are intended to provide you with general guidance on how to safely work with a specific class of chemical or hazard.  This SOP is generic in nature.  It addresses the use and handling of substances by hazard class only.  In some instances multiple SOPs may be applicable for a specific chemical (i.e. both the SOPs for flammable liquids and carcinogens would apply to benzene).  If you have any questions concerning the applicability of any items listed in this procedure, contact EH&S 1-2356 or the Principal Investigator.


Pyrophoric chemicals are liquids and solids that will ignite spontaneously in air at about 130 degrees F.  Titanium dichloride and phosphorous are examples of pyrophoric solids; tributylaluminum and related compounds are examples of pyrophoric liquids.




Personnel:         Wash hands and arms with soap and water following any skin contact with pyrophoric chemicals.



Protection:      Eye protection in the form of safety glasses must be worn at all times when handling pyrophoric chemicals.  Ordinary (prescription) glasses do not provide adequate protection. Adequate safety glasses must meet rigorous tests and safety standards according to ANSI Z.87.1 and must be equipped with side shields.  Safety glasses with side shields do not provide protection from splashes, therefore, when the potential for splash hazard exists, other eye protection or face protection must be worn.


Eyewash:         Where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to pyrophoric chemicals, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use.  Bottle type eyewash stations are not acceptable.


Fume hood:     Many pyrophoric chemicals release noxious or flammable gases and should be handled in a hood.  In addition, some pyrophoric materials are stored under kerosene (or other flammable solvents); therefore the use of a fume hood is required to prevent the release of flammable vapors in the laboratory. 


Gloves:           Gloves should be worn when handling pyrophoric chemicals.  Disposable latex or nitrile gloves provide adequate protection against accidental hand contact with small quantities of most laboratory chemicals.  Lab workers should contact EH&S 1-2356 for advice on chemical resistant glove selection when direct or prolonged contact with hazardous chemicals is anticipated.



Assessment:   Hazard assessment for work with pyrophoric chemicals should thoroughly address the issue of fire safety (including the need for class D fire extinguishers), proper use and handling techniques, chemical toxicity, storage, and spill response.




Apparel:          Lab coats, closed toed shoes and long sleeved clothing should be worn when handling pyrophoric chemicals.  Additional protective clothing should be worn if the possibility of skin contact is likely.


Shielding:        Safety shielding is required any time there is a risk of explosion, splash hazard or a highly exothermic reaction.  All manipulations of pyrophoric chemicals that pose this risk should occur in a fume hood with the sash in the lowest feasible position.  Portable shields, which provide protection to all laboratory occupants, are acceptable.



Shower:           A safety or drench shower should be immediately accessible at all times when working with pyrophoric chemicals.


Labels:            Containers: All pyrophoric chemicals must be clearly labeled with the correct chemical name.  Handwritten labels are acceptable; chemical formulas and structural formulas are not acceptable.



Storage:          Pyrophoric chemicals should be stored under an atmosphere of inert gas or under kerosene as appropriate.  Do not store pyrophoric chemicals with flammable materials or in a flammable-liquids storage cabinet.  Store these materials away from sources of ignition.  Minimize the quantities of pyrophoric chemicals stored in the laboratory.


                        Never return excess chemicals to the original container.  Small amounts of impurities may be introduced into the container which may cause a fire or explosion.


Spills:              Please See Spill Cleanup Procedures



Protection:      Evacuated glassware can implode and eject flying glass, and splattering chemicals.  Vacuum work involving pyrophoric chemicals must be conducted in a fume hood, glove box or isolated in an acceptable manner.


                        Mechanical vacuum pumps must be protected using cold traps and, where appropriate, filtered to prevent particulate release.  The exhaust for the pumps must be vented into an exhaust hood.  Vacuum pumps should be rated for use with flammable liquids.



Disposal:         Pyrophoric chemical wastes may pose a flammability risk and should not remain in the laboratory overnight.  Contact EH&S 1-2356.


All waste shall be placed in closed containers, properly labeled and moved to the Hazardous Waste Accumulation Structure (south west corner of SGM).  Notify Roger Clark of Waste to be picked up from the Hazardous Waste Accumulation area.