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Sulfuric Acid

Occupational Safety Resources

Before working with sulfuric acid, individuals should be trained in its proper handling and storage and know how to use proper personal protective equipment, including protective gloves and chemical-resistant clothing and boots, splash-proof goggles, and respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) External link for use with sulfuric acid.

Proper Handling and Storage

Sulfuric acid should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area in tightly sealed containers protected from exposure to weather, extreme temperature changes, and physical damage. Sulfuric acid is incompatible with organic materials and metals. Contact with either of these materials could cause fire and explosions, or could generate toxic sulfur dioxide fumes and flammable hydrogen gas.

If a fire occurs in the immediate vicinity of sulfuric acid containers, remove them promptly if it can be done safely. If removal is not possible, use dry chemical or carbon dioxide to extinguish small fires. For large fires, flood the fire area with water from a safe distance. When water is applied directly to sulfuric acid, heat evolves and spattering may occur. When heated, sulfuric acid emits highly toxic fumes, so firefighters should use self-contained breathing apparatus.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides specific information about proper handling, storage, and safety and health management of sulfuric acid. Publications can be obtained by written request or through the OSHA website, www.osha.gov External link, by email or by calling OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742). The mailing address is:

U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
200 Constitution Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20210

North Carolina OSHA
http://www.nclabor.com/osha/osh.htm
4 West Edenton Street
Raleigh NC 27601-1092
(919) 807-2860

Personal Protective Equipment

Clothing.

  • Avoid skin contact with sulfuric acid.
  • Wear protective gloves and chemical-resistant clothing and boots. Nitrile and natural rubber gloves are best suited for prolonged contact with sulfuric acid, but vinyl gloves are also acceptable.
  • Check with the glove manufacturer for recommended use and duration guidelines.

Eye Protection.

  • Employees should use splash-proof goggles when there is any possibility of sulfuric acid exposure.
  • An eye-wash fountain or an eye wash kit for emergency responders should be available if there is any possibility of the eyes coming in contact with a solution or liquid sulfuric acid with more than 1 percent sulfuric acid by weight.

Respiratory Protection (respirators).

  • Engineering controls should be implemented to reduce environmental concentrations to the permissible exposure level (1 mg/m3).
  • Respirators should be used when engineering and work practice controls are not feasible or are being installed.
  • Respiratory protection should be approved by NIOSH specifically for sulfuric acid and used in accordance with the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard, 29 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 1910.134. Under routine exposures where the ambient concentration of sulfuric acid exceeds 1 mg/m3, use an air purifying, full-face respirator equipped with acid gas cartridges appropriate for sulfuric acid.
  • For exposures of unknown concentrations of sulfuric acid, such as uncontrolled releases, only a pressure-demand SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) is appropriate.
  • Respirator use must be limited to individuals who have been medically cleared, adequately trained, and fitted for the respirator face-piece. Companies are also referred to 29 CFR 1910.119, Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals Standard, for additional information.

Specific information about personal protective equipment appropriate for working with sulfuric acid is available from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):

Industrial Hygiene

Industrial hygienists and an occupational health nurse in the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch are available for professional consultation and training. Learn more:

Industrial hygiene consultation

Occupational health nursing consultation

For Additional Information