Your spill kit is designed to protect your business from the hazards associated with chemical spills including human harm, property damage and environmental pollution. But you’d be surprised how often we notice spill kits being used incorrectly by staff — or not being maintained at all. In this blog, we’ll help you get equipped to deal with a hazardous chemical spill by listing the 10 things you should never do with your chemical spill kit.

1. Forget To Replace Missing Items

Spill kits are generally created with a range of materials including booms (containment), absorbents (clean-up), waste bags (disposal), gloves and PPE (protection for staff) and a container/wheelie bin to store the spillage and waste in. You may also have a range of tools and equipment for the clean-up including yard brooms, shovels and/or scoops.

However, you can’t tend to a chemical spill if you don’t have all the required items of your spill kit. If any materials or tools have gone missing, ensure that they’re promptly replaced so that your spill kit can continue to be an effective tool in the spill clean-up process.

contents of a 50 litre chemical spill kit For your chemical spill kit to be useful, the contents must remain 100% complete with no missing items.

2. Leave It On A Bench

… a table, in a cupboard, leaning up against a cabinet. Need we go on?

Your spill kit is an essential tool that your staff will need when a chemical leak or spill does occur in your business. But if it’s left in some random place, such as on top of a safety cabinet, then how will your staff be able to find where it is?

Your spill kit should be situated in a highly visible, easily accessible location. It’s also crucial to remind staff about where the spill kit is located, so that there is no valuable time wasted in the event of a chemical spill.

We suggest locating your spill kits on a wall near your chemical cabinet or store. You should also make sure that there’s clear signage in place, so that all staff and contractors understand that the spill kit has a designated location — and that it must be returned to that spot after use.

3. Not Include Instructions

You may have bought the most effective and easy-to-use spill kit on the market, but it’s not much use if none of your staff know how to use it.

When creating or purchasing a spill kit for your business, make sure that you also include clear instructions on how to use the spill kit. Your instructions don’t have to be a complex and long-winded essay on spill kit usage, just a basic rundown of the steps to take when using the kit to clean-up a spill.

If you have multiple classes of chemicals in your organisation, each spill kit should have tailored instructions that suit the kit that you have collated.

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4. Put Soiled Materials Back In The Kit

When you’re cleaning up a chemical spill, your team must always be aware of the hazards associated with your chemical products.

Any released chemicals and resulting effluent should be safely cleaned up and disposed of in a compliant manner during the spill response process. Similarly, the used items in your spill kit should also be handled accordingly, as they will contain chemicals and residue that could potentially put your staff at risk.

If you place soiled items (such as an oil-soaked absorbent pad) in the general waste, you can create a range of risks for your business including chemical burns, hazardous vapour inhalation, ignition or even environmental contamination. Likewise, if you have used a shovel to clean-up a chemical spill, then you must ensure that it does not contain any chemical residue if it is to be re-used for the next leak or spill.

fire safety 1

Never put soiled absorbents or tools back in your kit as this could cause property damage or human harm.

Therefore, when completing the clean-up and disposal of your chemical spillage, make sure you also decontaminate your equipment and tools — and safely dispose of your absorbent materials.

5. Swap Out Items From Other Kits

Are you running short on neutralisers, cleaning substances or absorbents? Whatever you do, don’t take — or swap out — items from another chemical spill kit.

You must always ensure that the products you’re using in your spill kit are suitable and compatible with the chemicals you’re cleaning up. For example, absorbents for oil and fuel spill kits are different from those used in a general-purpose spill kit. They are more absorbent than other materials (due to the heavy, oily substance that must be soaked up) and manufactured from materials that won’t create static charge (due to the ignition risk).

small oil leak on concrete

Your spill kit contents will be determined by the type of chemical that you’re carrying, such as an oil and fuel kit for the clean-up of flammable liquids.

If you happen to take the wrong items from another spill kit, then you won’t be able to clean up your oil or fuel spill in a safe or successful manner.

6. Use A Spill Kit Without Training

When you’re working with any type of dangerous goods, training staff to handle, store and clean-up these products is essential to workplace safety. While you should have a complete spill kit that features clear instructions, that doesn’t mean that your staff will understand how to use the spill kit in a fast and effective manner.

Any staff or contractors that may be involved in a chemical spill should undergo training to help them become aware of the hazards associated with the spillage — as well as how to best contain and manage the incident. If any new chemicals are introduced at your site, you must adjust your spill kit and clean-up training to suit the properties and hazards associated with your new hazardous chemical products.

7. Forget To Inspect

Whether you’re storing your chemicals in a safety cabinet or using a bunded trolley to move your chemical packages, every piece of equipment that relates to hazardous substances must be regularly inspected to ensure safety and compliance.

Just as you would inspect a cabinet for damage, corrosion or spills, you should inspect your spill kits to make sure that they are in good working order. You must also check to see if the kit contains all the essential materials required for the spill response.

8. Ignore Chemical SDS

Have you checked the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) of each chemical product to determine your spill kit requirements? Each hazardous substance will require specific items and equipment to aid the clean-up of a chemical spill.

As part of your risk assessment, you should have read your SDS for each chemical product and determined the Dangerous Goods Class of the chemical. You’ll also have a good understanding of how your chemical product could react with other materials or incompatible substances.

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When creating or purchasing a spill kit for your work area, make sure you have a firm understanding of the chemical’s properties so you can choose a spill kit that is safe and compatible.

9. Not Consider The Capacity Of The Spill Kit

From minor leaks to major spills, your spill kit/s must be able to contain and clean-up the volume of chemicals that are released into your workplace.

Three types of spill kits in blue, yellow and orange wheelie bins

The volume of hazardous chemicals at your worksite will affect the capacity of the chemical spill kits that are required.

Spill kits come in a range of sizes to suit a variety of leaks and spills. Whether you need a 50 litre kit to clean-up a leaking corrosives container or a 240 litre kit to combat a petrol spill, make sure determining the required capacity of your spill kits is a key part of your onsite risk assessment.

10. Buy A Kit Without A Spill Response Plan

When dealing with a hazardous chemical incident, such as a fire, explosion, leak or spill, your level of preparedness will influence how efficiently and effectively your staff can manage the situation.

Creating a Chemical Spill Response Plan for your business should be a top priority and an important part of your workplace health and safety procedures.

Your plan should factor in all the ways in which a spill could occur, whether it’s a small leak in a toxic substances store or a large spill from an oil tanker. Spill kits, operating procedures and staff training should all form a part of your Chemical Spill Response Plan.

Never just buy a spill kit or two and think you’re adequately prepared to deal with hazardous spillage. Invest the time and resources in developing a plan that will protect your organisation from the many risks associated with hazardous chemical spills.

Choosing, Using and Maintaining Your Chemical Spill Kit

Now that we’ve listed the 10 things you should never do with your spill kits, we hope we’ve given you a broad overview of how to use and maintain your kit. Choosing a suitable chemical spill kit is just one of the initial steps when developing a compliant spill response for your business. The use and maintenance of the spill kit — as well as the developing of plans and procedures, and the training of staff— all assist in helping businesses reduce the risks associated with spillage.

To help you meet your compliance obligations, we've developed a handy spill kit checklist. Use this checklist when you're inspecting your spill kits to ensure they're fully stocked and in good working order. Grab your copy of our checklist today and ensure your team are fully prepared to deal with leaks and spills.

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