Hydrofluoric Acid

Dangers of HF:

Hydrofluoric acid (HF) is a particular dangerous acid to work with as it is extremely damaging to human tissues. It causes severe burns that may not be painful or visible for several hours after exposure. It can be fatal if inhaled or ingested. It can also penetrate skin rapidly and replace the calcium in your bones with fluoride leading to serious injury or death. Specialized training is required because of the high hazard and risk associated with HF.

If you use HF in your labs you must follow the Safe Work Practices laid out by HSE. The following is brief overview those safe practices.

Required Safety Documentation:

Lab PIs must have the following readily available to all those working in the lab

  • HF SOP published by HSE
  • HF Lab Specific SOP
    • HF Spill response
    • First Aid Procedures for HF Exposure
    • Personal Protective Equipment Required when working with HF

Before working with HF:

  • Receive lab specific training on HF from the Lab PI/supervisor
  • Review the SDS sheet for HF, your labs SOP, and all safety plans
  • Never work alone. Always have someone present who is also been trained to work with HF and knows HF first aid
  • Make sure you have Calcium Gluconate Gel within arms reach and a copy of the HF SDS
  • Make sure you have the proper PPE for the concentration of HF you are using and perform all work within a fumehood
  • Always have sodium bicarbonate on hand (twice the amount of the HF you are using) to neutralize any small spills that occur
  • Always work with the minimum amount of HF required for the work

HF First Aid:

The treatment of an HF burn is different than with other corrosives. The secondary person assisting with HF First Aid must first don the appropriate PPE before assisting the injured person. The secondary person should immediately call 911

Always prioritize first aid over cleaning up a spill. Respond quickly and smartly to prevent further injury, serious injuries, or death

Small Skin Exposure:

  • Rinse the exposed area for ONE minute and then massage HF Antidote Gel with a gloved hand into the wound until there is a cessation of any pain or until the skin is well impregnated with the Calcium Gluconate gel. Apply every 15 minutes until you receive professional medical attention
    • Calcium gluconate gel works because the calcium combines with the fluoride ions to form insoluble calcium fluoride, thus rendering the fluoride inactive and preventing further extraction of calcium from the body tissues and bones

Large Skin Exposure:

  • Immediately remove all clothing and proceed to a shower. Rinse for 1 minute and apply calcium gluconate gel to all exposed areas

Eye Injuries:

  • Calcium gluconate is NOT used in this case
  • Remove contact lenses and irragate eyes at an eye wash station for at least 30 minutes
  • Phone ahead to the UofA hospital to ensure the appropitate antidote solution is available on arrival
    • 780-492-8822
  • Place ice pack on eyes until reaching emergency room


  • Drink large amount of water or milk followed by 2-4 oz of Maalox or Milk of Magnesia
  • Do not induce vomiting


  • Remove injured person immediately to an uncontaminated area
  • If breathing has stopped, begin CPR using one-way valve mask

After initial treatment:

  • Immediately go to University of Alberta Hospital OR to the Royal Alex Hospital in Edmonton despite any first aid already administered

    • Both hospitals have an HF treatment protocol. Take the HF SDS sheet with you

  • File an incident report with HSE and file a WCB report. Notify the EAS Safety Committee of the incident

HF Spill:

If less than 250 mL:

  • Alert the secondary person the spill. Block off the area to any other people
  • Call in a EAS Small Chemical Spills Designate
  • Don the appropriate PPE. If the spill is outside of the fumehood make sure to wear a respirator with acid/organic vapor cartridges
  • Slowly pour the sodium bicarbonate, circling the spill and working inwards until the whole spill is covered and been absorbed
  • Scoop up the spill placing into heavy duty bags. Seal the bags, tag with a waste card, and submit to ESB B-03
  • Wash the area twice with Milli-Q water: first mixed with sodium bicarbonate, the second without
  • Report the incident and notify the EAS Safety Committee
  • Replenish any supplies used from your spill kit

If greater than 250 mL:

  • Do not handle the spill yourself! Evacuate the area and immediately call HSE (780-492-5555). They will either handle the spill themselves or call in the Fire Department or CEDA
  • Report the incident and notify the EAS Safety Committee