Formalin is a solution of formaldehyde and methanol in water. It’s corrosive and toxic. Guidance for spillages and accidents should be included in the hospital’s formalin hazards and risks assessment. Many hospitals will also have a team trained for formalin spills that knows which spills can be dealt with and which require a special response, like the attendance of the fire service. The response team will want to work on evacuating patients and staff from the area before attending to the spillage. They will need to ensure that they not only wear suitable gloves, goggles, boots and coveralls, but also respiratory protection such as an ABEK filtered respirator or self-contained breathing apparatus. Finally, as a precaution, anyone who has been in the area of exposure without protection should be examined.

Tom Johnson is an emergency responder at the National Chemical Emergency Centre