The University of Chicago

Environmental Health & Safety


Safety Precautions for Working with Hydrofluoric Acid


All University of Chicago employees who work with Hydrofluoric Acid (HF) shall adhere to the work practices identified in this policy.

Information and Training

Employees who handle hydrofluoric acid shall be trained on the hazards of HF and what to do in the event of an exposure or a spill by the Researcher or Principle Investigator. A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) on HF shall always be kept in the immediate work area where HF is used. Safety Data Sheets are readily available upon request 24 hours a day and shall be accessible by one of the following methods:

The SDS together with this policy shall be used to train employees on the hazards of HF.

Personal Protective Equipment

Eye Protection

Chemical goggles together with a face shield shall be used when handling concentrated HF.

Body Protection

Wear a buttoned laboratory coat with a chemical splash apron made out of natural rubber, neoprene or Viton®. Never wear shorts or open-toed shoes when handling HF or other corrosive chemicals.


Typically, medium or heavyweight Viton®, nitrile or natural rubber gloves are worn when working with HF. Always consult the manufacturer’s glove selection guide when selecting a glove for HF. A second pair of disposable nitrile gloves shall be worn under the gloves for protection against leaks.

Gloves that have not been contaminated with HF may be disposed of in the common trash. If gloves become contaminated with HF, remove them immediately, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for 15 minutes, and check your hands for any sign of contamination. Gloves contaminated with any amount of HF shall be disposed of as HF waste. Contact Environmental Health and Safety at 773.702.9999 for a waste pick-up.


All work with HF shall be done in a chemical fume hood in accordance with the University’s Chemical Fume Hoods policy.


Store all HF and HF waste in labeled chemically compatible containers (e.g., polyethylene or Teflon®). Glass, metal, and ceramic containers are not compatible with HF. HF should never be stored with incompatible chemicals such as ammonia or other alkaline materials. Always place HF on a low protected shelf or other location where it will not be accidentally spilled or knocked over.

Safe Work Practices

Avoid working alone and after hours when you are using HF, if possible. Do not eat, smoke, drink or apply cosmetics where HF is handled. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling HF.

Chemical Spills

If greater than one liter of HF is spilled outside of a chemical hood:

Laboratory staff can clean up spills less than one liter of HF inside a chemical fume hood by containing the spillage and carefully neutralizing the spill with:

All spills shall be cleaned in accordance with the Chemical Spill Response procedure.

Chemical Waste

HF waste shall be placed in a chemically compatible container container (e.g. polyethylene or Teflon®) with a sealed lid and clearly labeled. Do not store HF waste in glass or metal containers. Waste shall be disposed of in accordance with the Hazardous Materials Management policy.

Contact Environmental Health and Safety at 773.702.9999 for a hazardous waste pick-up.

Emergency Procedures

All exposure to or contact with HF shall receive immediate first aid and medical evaluation even if the injury appears minor or there is no sense of pain. HF can produce delayed effects and serious tissue damage without necessarily producing pain.

In the event of an HF exposure, immediately start the first aid procedures described below to avoid HF burns or other permanent damage. Once first aid has been started, contact the University Police at 123 or 773.702.8181.

First Aid for Skin Contact

The following first aid procedures shall be initiated for skin contact:

Note: Those who assist HF victims shall be careful not to contaminate themselves and wear proper PPE while assisting after an HF exposure.

First Aid for Eye Contact

The following first aid procedures shall be initiated for eye contact:

First Aid for Ingestion

The following first aid procedures shall be initiated for ingestion:

First Aid for Inhalation

The following first aid procedures shall be initiated for inhalation:

Reviewed: July 2014