Spill Prevention and Response

Spills in the workplace cause hazards from slips and falls, exposure to the spilled material, and accidental release into the environment. Know the proper storage, handling, use, and spill response for the materials in your workplace.

Get training on your worksite spill response plan and the materials that you use and store. Read the safety data sheets (SDS) that explain correct spill response techniques, cleanup methods, and disposal. Know when it is safe for you to clean up a spill yourself and when to call your supervisor, the company spill response team, or an outside resource for assistance. Know what equipment you will need to clean-up properly. Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for spill response such as gloves, safety glasses, coveralls, and/or respirators. Know where your spill response materials are located at work and how to use them.

In order to prevent spills, use good storage techniques. Place materials in compatible groups and appropriate storage containers. Securely seal materials before storage. Keep materials sheltered and in the proper environment. Post material storage areas with spill response procedures and emergency phone numbers.

Limit the amounts of new and hazardous materials stored on your site to minimize the risk and size of spills. Place materials out of the lane of foot and vehicle traffic to prevent accidental spills. Store materials indoors and away from exterior doors and sewer drains to prevent accidental releases to the environment. Consider double containers for materials stored in large quantities, that may create a difficult cleanup task, or that can be toxic or hazardous even if spilled in small amounts.

When you move or dispense materials, handle them properly to prevent spills. Consider double containers when you are transporting materials. Carry one item at a time when you are moving or dispensing chemicals. Place multiple items in a rolling cart or tray instead of trying to carry them all at once. Check storage equipment, material lines, and dispensing areas for signs of leaks and maintain this equipment regularly. Never leave chemical filling stations unattended.

If you cause a spill or find a spill, immediately notify your supervisor and coworkers in the area. If the spilled material is flammable or volatile, shut off flame sources and air the area out if it is safe to do so. If possible, protect floor drains or outside access areas from the spill. Cordon off the spill area to prevent further access and potential exposures. If you or a coworker was exposed to the spilled material, use emergency eye washes or showers for at least 15 minutes, get to a well-ventilated area, and seek medical attention if needed.

Using your worksite spill response plan and information about the material, determine if the spill is small enough and of the type that you can clean up yourself. Generally, spills of one cup or less can be wiped up with paper toweling or absorbent spill kit materials. Spills of approximately one gallon can be cleaned up with spill kit materials such as spill socks, pads, or absorbents. If you use loose absorbent materials, spread them around the spill and work toward the inside to reduce splashing or spreading the spill. Spills over 2 gallons in size may require emergency cleanup from a worksite spill response team or an outside resource.

Use a brush or broom and a scoop or dustpan to gather spill absorbents and soaked towels, socks or pillows. Decontaminate the floor, tools, and other surfaces that were exposed to the spill. Place used spill response materials, including contaminated PPE and other items, in a double plastic bag and then place the bag inside a plastic or metal drum. Label these materials as hazardous waste along with the date and the materials that were spilled. Arrange for proper storage and disposal of all spill materials.

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