A chemical spill is the uncontrolled spreading of a hazardous chemical, whether in solid, liquid or gas form. It may occur indoors or in the environment, and includes two types, major and minor spills.
Major spills are spillages of unknown properties involving the occurrence of or potentiality for fire and explosion, which pose an immediate danger to life and health, as well as dealing injuries that require medical attention. This type of chemical spill requires an external emergency response. While minor spills, on the other hand, do not exhibit the qualities of a major spill.
In the event of a chemical spill, there are specific steps to containment and clean up. Especially if it is a major spill, you will need training and the necessary equipment, such as a chemical spill response kit. Chemical spill containment includes items such as drum bunded units, polyethylene spill pallets, IBC bunds, and drum racking, outdoor hardtop storage, drum cart and spill mat.
Since major spills fall under the criteria of a ‘serious incident’, it requires a supervisor to conduct an incident investigation. Here are the precautionary measures in dealing with major spills:
- Ring the fire alarm
- Safely attend to the following, if possible; look after the injured people, turn off ignition sources and contain the spill from spreading
- Evacuate the building
- Share the details of the incident and notify the authorities
Minor spills demand less urgency but require a proper assessment of the situation before acting. It is important to note that you should refrain from panicking when a spill occurs. When a minor spill happens, here’s what you need to do:
- If need be, evacuate the area, but a working ventilation system should be able to contain the spread of gases or vapours within a building if the doors are closed
- Attend to any contaminated people, but maintain health and safety
- Control the spill from spreading, which may include sealing drainage systems
- Through material safety data sheets, clean up the spill, but if there are materials that spilt into the environment, notify the authorities
If you have had no training on chemical clean-up, it will be best for you to keep your distance from the chemical spillage while alerting the authorities while ensuring that the released chemicals do not spread or leak into the environment.