Mercury Spill in Lab Oven

Category: Lessons Learned


A mercury oven thermometer break occurred when heating the oven, resulting in a mercury spill.

The thermometer was in a drying oven when it broke as the oven was coming up to temperature. The lab group had used the thermometer several times up to 50 °C, but they were taking the oven up to 200 °C when the break occurred. Investigation later revealed that specific thermometer was only rated up to 150°C.

Once the break was discovered, personnel on the scene immediately closed the oven door, unplugged the oven and departed the lab. The incident was immediately reported to EHS.

Shortly after the incident, an undergraduate student visited the lab to review the scene. The undergraduate’s actions on-scene resulted in a possible mercury exposure.

Due to the inability to ensure all internal areas of the oven were free of mercury, the thermometer break resulted in the oven being disposed of as hazardous waste.

The resulting impact was (1) cost of replacing the oven, (2) $950 in hazardous waste disposal fees.

Although no medical treatment was required, one undergraduate student sought medical evaluation as a precaution.

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