Last Revised: April 12, 2024

Revision 3/2024

The requirements in Penn's Chemical Hygiene Plan SOP:  Corrosives and SOP:  Acutely Toxic Chemicals apply to all work involving hydrofluoric acid.  The Fact Sheet below gives hazard information and precautions for working with this chemical; however, this information is provided as a supplement to the SOPs, which must first be read and understood by anyone planning to work with this chemical.

Hazard Description

Hydrofluoric acid (HF) is a strongly corrosive chemical. HF readily penetrates the skin and mucous membranes, and can cause deep tissue destruction. Severity and timing of effects depends on the concentration, duration of exposure, and penetrability of the exposed tissue. Symptoms may start immediately or pain may be delayed. Life threatening systemic toxicity may follow dermal exposure with minimal external tissue damage. A seemingly minimal exposure can lead to severe medical consequences including death. HF is toxic from even extremely low concentrations, with the OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) being 3 ppm/8 hr and the NIOSH Immediately Dangerous to Life and Heath (IDLH) Level being 30 ppm.  Not only does concentrated (50-70%) HF convey a high risk of fluoride poisoning upon exposure due to the high dosage, but dilute (0-20%) HF also conveys just as high of a risk because affected areas may be painless until 24 hours after exposure while still containing a toxic dose, and thus may be difficult for an exposed person to notice and seek treatment for.

Hydrofluoric Acid Exposure Response Kit must be available near the point of use in every lab that stores or handles this acid.   See Emergency Equipment below for ordering information.

Approvals

Hazard Control Plan is highly recommended for procedures involving hydrofluoric acid (HF), and one may be required by EHRS under certain circumstances. 

Contact EHRS for assistance with your hazard assessment.

All work with HF requires the approval of the P.I. The P.I. must ensure that the person or team who will be working with the chemical writes a task-specific Hazard Control Plan (HCP) if required by EHRS or the P.I.'s hazard assessment. The HCP must be sent to EHRS for review.  EHRS will upload the HCP to the “documents” section of the lab’s BioRAFT page.  

The P.I. must also ensure that the person or team who will be working with the chemical understands the hazards and has received adequate training and supervision for the procedure. 

Any procedures involving the heating of HF must be reviewed by EHRS.  This may not be done in a standard laboratory fume hood without express approval. 

Hazard Controls

Extreme care must be taken to avoid conditions that would lead to spills or splashes of hydrofluoric acid.  All work with HF must be conducted in a fume hood.  The fume hood where HF is used and the cabinet where HF is stored must both be labeled to indicate that work with HF is done in that area.  All lab occupants must be made aware that HF is being used while work is in progress.  No other procedures must be done in the fume hood until all HF work is complete, the waste has been collected, and equipment and materials have been cleaned, properly discarded, or removed from the area.

Workers must wear, at a minimum, 8 mil nitrile gloves, 100% cotton lab coat, an HF-resistant apron, and safety goggles.  EHRS also strongly recommends working with a face shield, HF-resistant gloves, and HF-resistant arm sleeves (if not already a part of the glove).  Neoprene is a common HF-resistant material, but always check with the manufacturer for HF resistance before purchasing.  Labs are encouraged to evaluate their procedures for work with HF for the likelihood of spills or splashes occurring and weigh this against the need for greater manual dexterity or visual clarity.  If manual dexterity or visual clarity are too compromised by this additional PPE for the proposed work, only the minimum level of PPE must be worn. If your lab chooses to only wear the minimum level of PPE, please discuss this decision with EHRS for approval.

Due to the risk of splashes and equipment failures, do not use a syringe and needle to perform transfers of hydrofluoric acid solutions in volumes of greater than 5 mL.  When performing small-volume liquid transfers of chemicals with health hazards, it is not appropriate to use a luer-slip syringe type, because the needle can easily detach from the syringe barrel resulting in chemical splash and exposure.  Luer-lock or integrated-needle syringes must be used with these chemicals if a chemical exposure due to splash presents a significant health risk.

Emergency Equipment

Verify that your laboratory has an eye wash and that it properly functions. Identify the location of an emergency shower either inside your lab or close by in the hallway or equipment corridor. Check the inspection date on the shower tag and confirm that it was inspected within the last year. Contact EHRS if shower inspections are not current.

Hydrofluoric Acid Exposure Response Kit must be available near the point of use in every lab that stores or handles this acid. The HF First Aid Kit contains calcium gluconate gel, disposable jump suit (to wear if clothing is contaminated), chemical resistant gloves to use in assisting someone who has been exposed to HF, and emergency medical treatment instructions. Hydrofluoric Acid Exposure Response Kits are available for purchase from Fisher Scientific using this webform on the EHRS website.

Hydrofluoric Acid Exposure Response Kit Order Form

Emergencies

All exposures or suspected to hydrofluoric acid require immediate first aid response and prompt medical treatment.

Penn's HF Exposure Response Kit (see above) contains “Recommended Medical Treatment for Hydrofluoric Acid Exposure” instructions from Honeywell.  A copy of the instructions should be given to emergency medical responders.  

Emergency Contacts

General emergency response information can be found at Emergency Info

Special FIRST AID instructions for HF exposure to skin or eyes 

Quickly remove all contaminated clothing while using the safety shower or other available source of water.

  • Immediately flood the affected body area in cold water for at least 5 minutes.
  • Apply calcium gluconate to the affected areas.
  • Call 511 for emergency transport to the hospital (University City campus) or 911 (New Bolton Center or other location).

Spills

General procedures for chemicals spill response can be found in Section X: Chemical Spills in this CHP.

Do not hesitate to call EHRS for assistance with spill cleanup for hydrofluoric acid.

24 hours: 215-898-4453