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Prepare for Spills with a 7 Step Guide to Spill Response!

Every site should have an effective spill response plan to prevent accidents from becoming disasters. Stocking the appropriate spill response equipment and providing the proper training for all employees is important before a spill response plan can be implemented. When spills happen

1. Assess the risk
2. Select personal protective equipment
3. Confine the spill
4. Stop the source
5. Evaluate the incident and implement clean-up
6. Decontaminate the site
7. Complete required report

These steps along with the correct equipment will ensure that spill response is both fast and effective.

1. Assess the risk
From the moment a spill occurs and throughout response, responders should determine the risks that may affect human health, the environment and site. This could be instant because you know the liquid spilled because you were working with it, or it may involve some investigation. The spilled material can be identified from the container label or the Safety Data Sheet (SDS).
Next, identify how much has been spilled and the primary dangers posed to the spill responders and the environment. Once the extent of the spill and the risks are understood, appropriate measures may need to be taken to isolate the spill area (e.g. setting up exclusion zones).

2. Select personal protective equipment (PPE)
The spill responder may already be wearing the necessary PPE because they were working with the spilled liquid, but if not, it is crucial that the appropriate PPE is chosen. Consulting the SDS, Chemical Manufacturers literature or the PPE Manufacturers literature can aid in choosing. If the danger is uncertain and the material is unknown, the worst should be assumed, and the highest level of protection used.

3. Confine the spill
Confining the spill may be a simple task for spills of a few litres or it could be more difficult for larger spills, so it is important to make sure that the correct absorbents and size of spill kit are available for the liquids that have been spilled. Spill Kits come in a variety of sizes to accommodate both large and small spills.

Once the correct absorbents or kits have been chosen, responders should limit the spill area by blocking, diverting, or confining the spill. The flow of the liquid should also be stopped before it has a chance to contaminate a water source – minimising the spill area and protecting drains are the priorities. Make sure the barrier is placed far enough away from the spill to ensure you can complete the setup but also far away from sensitive areas, such as drains and waterways.

4. Stop the source
This step may happen before the spill is even confined depending on the extent or the size of the spill. This could simply involve turning a container upright, or plugging a leak from a damaged drum or container. Multi-Purpose Epoxy Putty is an effective product for stopping leaks from punctured pipes or drums. Once the leak has been stopped the liquids should be transferred from the damaged container to a new one.

5. Evaluate the incident and implement clean-up
Once the spill is confined and the leak has been stopped, it is time to reassess the incident and develop a plan of action for implementing the spill clean-up. First, responders should make sure they have enough spill response supplies to deal with the incident. Enough Pillows and Pads should be used to quickly absorb the spill and should be placed throughout the confined spill area. Once the absorbents are saturated, they may be considered hazardous waste and should be disposed of properly.

6. Decontaminate
The site, personnel, and equipment should be decontaminated by removing or neutralising the hazardous materials that have accumulated during the spill. This may involve removing and disposing of contaminated media, such as soil, that was exposed during the spill incident. PPE may be able to be reused after inspection and clean-up. An effective decontamination area should also be created to ensure the health and safety of emergency responders.

7. Complete required reports
As soon as possible after the spill, all spill notifications and reports required by local and national guidelines should be completed. Failure to do so can result in severe penalties. Typical reports include medical reports, local council or district reports, Environment Agency reports and company safety reports.

How can I get help or advice? If you need help or guidance in the development and implementation of a Health and Safety System please do not hesitate to give us a call on 01792 293736 or contact us via email on


Paul Griffiths


Senior Health & Safety Consultant