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The implementation of procedures to stop, clean up and decontaminate a hazardous chemical spill or release requires specially trained personnel. If you are not a trained responder, leave the clean-up and other procedures to the experts. Response team personnel must wear specifically designed chemical-resistant protective clothing, boots, gloves and face and eye protection. They may also need to wear respiratory protection. Respirators must be selected based on the assigned protection factor provided for the specific chemical. In addition, response tools must be carefully selected. For instance, if the chemical is flammable, the tools must be made of materials that will not produce sparks. If the spilled chemical is corrosive, the tools must be made of materials that will not react with the chemical or disintegrate.

Spill response procedures are designed to contain the spilled material quickly and safely and protect employees, the facility, the community, and the environment from exposure to harmful chemicals. The following procedures, which often overlap, may be taken to control, contain or clean up spilled chemicals.

Stop the source of the leak. Close the valve, shut off the pump or patch a hole that is leaking. Cover or provide diking materials around drains to keep spilled chemicals from entering the sewer system. Remove or protect reactive or incompatible materials that are located near the area. Contain the spill with the techniques that best address the situation, which may include one or more of the following: place an empty container in position to capture the leaking material; place the leaking container in a recovery drum or other container; pump the spilled material from the leaking container into a safe container; or rotate the container to a position that stops the leak.

Often, absorbent material can be used to soak up a spill. There are several different absorbent materials that may be used and have been specifically designed for certain materials spilled. The mix of the absorbent material and spilled chemical may be placed into an approved Department of Transportation container. Larger amounts of spilled chemicals may be vacuumed by a specially designed truck. 

Any time a responder comes into contact with a hazardous chemical, decontamination procedures must be followed to keep the chemical from being spread and possibly expose the responder or others. Remove contaminated clothing according to company procedures before you enter an uncontaminated area. In addition, don’t forget to decontaminate any tools or equipment that may have been exposed to a hazardous substance.


Get more information about the Spill Response Awareness training course.