Do you know how to determine if a spill is controlled or uncontrolled? If a hazardous chemical was spilled in your lab right now, would the researchers know if they could clean it up themselves or not? Do you know what measures to take to handle a controlled or uncontrolled spill scenario?
There are many factors to consider when evaluating spill situations and planning for emergency response.
Generally speaking; a controlled spill is a spill that can be cleaned up with a buddy, using the contents of the spill kit readily available. It also poses little risk to the health and safety of the knowledgeable personnel cleaning the spill and there is no risk of an environmental release.
An uncontrolled spill poses risk to the personnel involved in spill clean-up and/or has the potential risk for release to the environment.
There may also be a risk of fire or explosion or a reaction.
Because of the potential risks associated with an uncontrolled spill, the first response is to evacuate. All spills can only be cleaned by appropriately trained personnel. Rather than wondering what the thresholds are for cleaning up a spill in house when there is a puddle on the floor, consider developing a spill response chart for the main hazardous chemicals present in your lab. I would suggest evaluating the chemicals that are used in large volumes, are highly hazardous, and/or used frequently. The completed spill response charts can then be posted on the spill kits and other conspicuous locations to be used as a quick reference in the event of a spill.
Taking the time to develop this very useful tool eliminates the step of guessing whether a spill could be safety cleaned up in house. Think of all the benefits!