Handling fluorescent tubes safely

We help you ensure you are handling fluorescent tubes safely with answers to all your fluorescent tube safety questions.  We look at when flu tubes are harmful and what to do if you break a fluorescent tube on a hard and soft surface.

Are fluorescent tubes harmful?

Yes, but only if broken so it’s important that you handle flu tubes safely. Fluorescent tubes contain mercury, which can be dangerous if released so be careful not to break them. The mercury is used to transport electric currents through the bulb which is the reasoning for it being there.

Mercury is toxic, and can cause serious damage to the brain, kidneys, lungs, nervous system and other vital organs. Therefore, fluorescent tubes should always be disposed of properly. If you are ready to dispose of your fluorescent tubes then get in contact with us today.

What do I do if I break a fluorescent tube?

it's important to handle fluorescent tubes safelyIf you break a fluorescent tube you will need to start by evacuating the room, ensuring that no one walks through the breakage as they leave. Make sure that you open all windows and leave the room for at least 15 minutes. Then turn off any central heating systems or air conditioning.

Make sure you are handling fluorescent tubes safely by taking the appropriate steps according to whether you broke the flu tube on a hard or soft surface.

If you broke the fluorescent tube on a hard surface

Take the following steps:

  • Get some gloves and put them on before you touch anything.
  • Carefully collect the glass pieces and powder using stiff paper or cardboard.
  • Empty into a canning jar or sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape to pick up any remaining glass fragments and powder.
  • When you are sure that you have cleared it all, wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes.
  • Place the towels or wet wipes in the canning jar or sealed plastic bag.
  • We recommend that you DON’T use a vacuum or broom to clear the broken glass.

If you broke the fluorescent tube on carpet

Take the following steps:

  • Get some gloves and put them on before you touch anything.
  • Carefully collect the glass pieces and powder using stiff paper or cardboard.
  • Empty into a canning jar or sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape to pick up any remaining glass fragments and powder.
  • Once the visible materials are removed, you can use a vacuum if needed.
  • Empty the vacuum into a sealed plastic bag.
  • Please be aware that the next several times that you vacuum your carpet, you should turn off any central heating systems or air conditioning, and open a window before getting started. Once you are done, it’s best to leave the window open for another 15 minutes before closing.

If you broke the fluorescent tube on any soft material

If broken on clothes or bedding for example then follow these steps:

  • If any clothing or bedding came in direct contact with the broken tube, then it should be thrown away. Do not try to wash anything as it could contaminate the other items in your machine.
  • If any clothing or bedding has been exposed to mercury but not physically touched by it, then it can be washed.
  • If any mercury got on your shoes, then simply wipe it off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Then place the towels or wet wipes in a canning jar or sealed plastic bag.

To dispose of the broken tube once cleaned up, it is best to immediately place it outside until you are ready to bring them to us or request collection for disposal.

Why do I have to dispose of my fluorescent tube lamps?

As mercury is a hazardous material, it needs to be disposed of. It’s not very safe to put it in your general waste or recycling bin.

How do I correctly dispose of fluorescent tube lamps?

Wiser Recycling offers free collections in certain areas for fluorescent tubes, so get in contact with us. We will dispose of the fluorescent tubes for you safely and compliantly. Find out more about our fluorescent tube disposal services and how we recycle fluorescent tubes and other lamps.

Find out more about handling fluorescent tubes safely in the workplace

For further information about health & safety and lighting in the workplace, read the HSE Lighting at Work guidance.