Sulfuric Acid Handling

Safety Considerations

Sulfuric Acid can be handled safely if the proper precautionary measures are observed. This section presents a review of the hazardous properties of sulfuric acid and the precautionary measures which should be followed.


Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment should not be considered as a substitute for safe working conditions where better engineering controls and safer work practices can be implemented. It is, however, in certain instances, the only practical means of protecting the worker.

The personal protective equipment listed below should be worn whenever skin contact with sulfuric acid is possible or whenever the airborne concentration of sulfuric acid may exceed acceptable exposure limits

  • Chemical safety glasses and face shield (8”inch high minimum)
  • Rubber or polyvinyl chloride gloves with gauntlets large enough to cover the forearm
  • Rubber or polyvinyl chloride high top safety toe shoes or boots, the tops of which should be covered by the trousers;
  • Acid proof outer clothing that fits snugly at neck and wrists. The wrists of the outer clothing should be positioned to prevent drainage of acid into the gloves. Jackets with attached gloves are available;
  • Hard hat or other form of head protection (eg. Full cover acid hood)
  • A respirator for protection against airborne concentrations of sulfuric acid.

For more information on specific safety measures, health effects and carcinogenicity please refer to the Safety Handbook available in PDF file for easy printing. You can also call your Customer Service Representative for a hard copy.

Respiratory protection

If the airborne concentrations of sulfuric acid cannot be controlled to acceptable levels, potentially exposed individuals should be protected through the use of NIOSH/MSHA – approved respiratory equipment. Care should be taken in choosing and using a respirator. All aspects of any respiratory protection program should be thoroughly reviewed and approved by a competent safety or health professional.

Respiratory protections should be used whenever there is potential exposure to oleum. Oleum will liberate sulfur trioxide (SO3) gas, exposure to which can be extremely damaging to the lungs.

Water supply-safety showers and eyewash fountains

Rapid action freeze-proof safety showers and eyewash fountains that are readily accessible and well- identified should be installed in all areas where individuals may come in contact with sulfuric acid.

When unusual or non-routine circumstances may result in individuals being potentially exposed to sulfuric acid at work stations where safety showers and eyewash fountains are not available, a hand-held drench hose or other adequate source of continuous water flow should always be available.

Recommendations regarding equipment design and installation are give in ANSI A 358.1 – American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower equipment.

Fire and Explosion Hazards

Sulfuric Acid is not flammable; however, under some conditions, it can cause the ignition of other combustible materials if it is allowed to come in contact with these materials.

Hydrogen, a highly flammable, odorless, colorless gas, is generated by the corrosive action of acid on most metals. Consequently, hydrogen can be generated inside a drum, tank car, tank truck, or metal storage tank containing sulfuric acid. As hydrogen will form flammable mixtures with air over a wide range of concentrations, ignition sources should not be permitted near drums, storage tanks, tank cars, or tank trucks, particularly when these containers are being opened after an extended period of being closed.

First Aid

Contact with concentrated sulfuric acid or oleum is an emergency requiring immediate treatment since the corrosive action of the acid occurs within seconds.

Remove the victim from exposure immediately.

Medical help should be obtained as quickly as possible.

For general first aid procedures, please refer the Sulfuric Acid Chemical Safety Handbook, page 24.