If your workplace carries any type of liquids or chemicals, you’ve probably heard of a spill kit. But what is a spill kit… and why do you need one? This blog aims to answer any questions you may have about spill kits and spill responses. We’ll look at what exactly a spill kit is and highlight some key materials and tools that may be required. We’ll also explain what type of workplaces require chemical spill kits — and when you may need to use one.

So, What’s A Spill Kit

Spill kit, chemical spill kit or chemical spill cleanup kit – whatever you want to call it, your kit is an essential tool to assist with the cleanup, decontamination, and disposal of waste in the event of a hazardous chemical spill.

Spill kits are an assembly of various materials and tools which will aid the clean up of a chemical leak or spill.

There are a wide range of spill kits on the market, to suit all types of hazardous chemicals in various quantities.

Some commonly used types of spill kits include:

  • General purpose spill kits – these kits can be used for a wide range of purposes including the cleanup of any liquid (ie. blood, flood waters, sewage) or chemical product (whether it’s classed as hazardous or not). However, as they are a universal kit, they may require customisation depending on the type of chemicals that your workplace is carrying.
  • Chemical spill kits – the chemical spill kit or HAZCHEM spill kit is designed to contain, neutralise and clean away spills from most types of hazardous chemicals. These kits will allow staff to provide a rapid response to any hazardous chemical spill or leak in the workplace, including solvents, paints, acids or pesticides.
  • Oil and fuel kits – when organisations are cleaning up oil and fuel spills, it’s important to minimise the risk that these flammable liquids pose. Therefore, the oil and fuel kits (otherwise known as hydrocarbon kits) are specifically designed to combat a flammable liquids spill.

REMEMBER: As part of your Incident Management Plan, you must have spill kits onsite that are compatible with the class of chemicals that you’re carrying. They must also be suitable for the quantity of hazardous chemicals that may be released during a spill.

What’s In A Kit?

A spill kit is simply a ready-made pack of items — such as absorbent materials, contaminated chemical waste bags, gloves and brooms — that provides workplaces with a complete (or near complete) set of items for staff to conduct the spill cleanup.

three types of spill kits in coloured bins

You may purchase a ready-made spill kit or create your own to suit the needs of your organisation.

Your kit may include items such as:

  • Absorbent materials to soak up the chemical
  • Containment booms to stop the spread
  • Gloves and personal protective equipment to safeguard workers
  • Waste disposal bags for contaminated chemical waste disposal
  • Containers or bins to place the spilled chemicals
  • Equipment to assist with clean-up such as brooms, shovels or scoops

Do You Need A Spill Risk Assessment?

To select the right chemical spill for your operations, there are many factors that you’ll need to consider. You will need to look at the individual chemical products that your workplace is carrying, the quantities of each, and the dangerous goods class of these substances.

You’ll also need to consider the ways in which a chemical spill could occur in your workplace — and what areas of your business will be affected.

two men conducting a risk assessment in the workplace

Conducting a risk assessment will ensure that you have identified all potential spill hazards and developed an effective spill response.

Therefore, we highly recommend conducting an onsite risk assessment to accurately determine your spill response needs. Your assessment will be able to determine the spill risk in your organisation and help you decide what type of spill kits (and how many) are required in each work area.

IMPORTANT: When conducting your spill risk assessment, take into consideration the individual Safety Data Sheet (SDS) of each chemical product that you have onsite to determine if there are any incompatibility issues. Some chemical products may react with certain materials or items that you may be considering for use in your spill kit.

Should A Spill Be Cleaned Up Immediately?

As you are probably aware, spills can cause a range of hazards. These may include, depending on the type and quantity of chemical that has spilled, some of the following:

  • Human harm – eye irritation, chemical burns, damage to the respiratory system, asphyxiation, poisoning.
  • Property damage – corrosion to materials, property and vehicles; fire damage.
  • Environmental pollution – contamination of soil and waterways, damage to animals and wildlife.

In addition to these serious hazards, an uncontrolled chemical spill will put you in non-compliance with Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations. This could result in a hefty fine or even a court hearing to determine the penalties for the incident. Under WHS Regulations, it is the responsibility of every workplace in Australia to provide spill containment and management in all areas of the business that handle, store, generate or use hazardous chemicals.

worker in protective boots standing in a chemical spill

All Australian businesses must be able to clean up a hazardous chemical leak or spill if it occurs.

If a chemical spill or leak does occur in your business, you have a legal responsibility to immediately clean up the spilled substances before they create further hazards for your workplace — and the wider community.

It’s dangerous to allow chemicals, or any chemical residue, to remain onsite without the proper cleaning and decontamination process being actioned immediately. Chemicals and their residue can create serious hazards that affect people, property and the environment — regardless of how small or big the chemical spill happens to be. Remember, even a small amount of chemicals can still result in issues such as burns to the skin, toxic poisoning, flash back and ignition.

REMEMBER: Whether it’s a few drops of petrol in a workshop or a leaking IBC in the yard, you’ll need to tend to your chemical leak or spill quickly to minimise any potential risks. A complete spill kit, that’s in good working order, is essential for the safe and efficient clean-up of a chemical spill.

What Workplaces Require Spill Kits?

The question is relatively easy to answer: if your business has any type of hazardous chemical on its premises, you are obliged to provide both a spill containment system (ie. bunded storage, bunded chemical handling equipment, bunded safety cabinets etc) as well as a spill response (ie. spill kits, staff training, spill response procedures).

WHS Regulations require all Australian workplaces to manage chemical spills through prevention, clean-up and disposal. This not only refers to the chemicals that are being leaked or spilled, but it also applies to any effluent which is produced during the spill.

IMPORTANT: You can refer to the relevant Australian Standard for more detailed information and guidance on how to prevent, contain and clean up hazardous chemical spills.

Where Should They Be Located?

Imagine if a chemical spill occurred in your workplace. Would it be on your factory floor, in your warehouse or perhaps on the production line? Or could a chemical spill occur if your forklift tank sprang a leak, or perhaps a delivery driver damaged a package that dripped hazardous substances over the loading dock?

To assist with the creation of your incident or spill response plan, you should look at every possible way that a leak or spill could occur in your business. Don’t just think about storage areas which hold large volumes of chemicals — look at every work area that could possibly be affected by an uncontrolled chemical spill. Once you’ve determined the likelihood of the spill, as well as potential spill locations, you can move forward and select a compliant and chemically compatible spill kit for each of these areas.

staff cleaning up a chemical spill in the workplace

Your kit should be easily accessible  so staff can work quickly in the event of a chemical leak or spill.

When installing spill kits in your organisation, you should always choose a highly visible and easily accessible location. Make sure that your spill kit is within easy reach of each area that may be prone to a chemical leak or spill.

Laminated instructions should accompany each spill kit, so all staff on duty are aware of the exact spill clean-up procedures. In addition to these instructions, all staff, supervisors and contractors who may come into contact with leaking or spilled chemicals must partake in training. This training should address all possible chemical hazards in your workplace, as well as format training for staff on the correct spill response procedure.

When Do Spills Occur? 

In addition to selecting the appropriate spill kits, it’s important to understand how spills can occur – so you can implement preventative measures or further training to reduce the risk. 

There are generally four major causes of chemical spills in the workplace.  These key causes of spills include: 

1. Human Error

Chemical spills can happen when people make mistakes or are just being careless. The accidental release of chemicals could occur when: 

  • The lid is left off a drum of oil, which is then knocked over when the drum is retrieved for use. 
  • A split container of corrosive chemicals is not documented. It leaks over the workplace floor when a staff member is taking it to their work area.   
  • A non-compliant chemical container is used to store a corrosive chemical. The chemical corrodes the container and leaks throughout the unbunded storage area. 

Spill kit

Chemical spills can occur in any workplace that carries any type of hazardous chemical.

However, there are many preventative measures which can limit the likelihood of human error occurring with your hazardous chemicals. We suggest combining a range of preventative measures such as implementing good housekeeping policies for your chemical stores, training and re-training your staff in chemical safety, and providing adequate supervision for staff who are working with hazardous chemicals.   

IMPORTANT: Implementing, maintaining and reviewing your chemical controls is a requirement under Australian WHS Regulations for any workplace that handles, carries or generates hazardous chemicals.  

2. Equipment Failure 

Many chemical spills are caused by equipment break downs. It could be as simple as an old chemical cabinet that is no longer impervious to chemical fumes or a failing pump on fuel dispensing equipment. 

To avoid chemical spills occurring in your own organisation, you should schedule integrity testing on your equipment and ensure that preventative maintenance is carried out. It’s also important that you create a schedule of regular site inspections, so your staff can identify and rectify any equipment issues when they first arise.  

3. Natural Disasters 

In Australia, we often see extreme weather conditions such as floods, cyclones and bushfires. When you’re dealing with hazardous chemical stores, these natural disasters can be amplified due to the risk of a chemical spill.   

corrosive container being lifted into place by crane

Consider the impact of a natural disaster or extreme weather on your chemical stores.

When storing your chemicals, you should always conduct a risk assessment first. Your risk assessment must consider the possible impact of weather and climate change on your chemical stores.  

For example, always choose a location for your chemical stores that is not prone to flooding and situated above the highest recorded flood level. To reduce the risk of natural disasters impacting your chemical stores, we recommend using compliant dangerous goods containers or outdoor chemical stores. These storage containers are built to a cyclone rating C as standard, so they are capable of withstanding extreme weather. 


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4. Deliberate Acts of Malice 

When storing hazardous chemicals and dangerous goods, it’s important to take into consideration the possibility of misuse, vandalism or sabotage with your stores.   

Some excellent steps in preventing deliberate acts that could result in a devastating (and expensive) chemical spill are:   

  • Locking your compliant chemical safety cabinets or outdoor storage containers to prevent unauthorised entry.  
  • Securing chemical and dangerous goods stores with fencing and barriers.  
  • Restricting access to chemical handling and storage areas.  
  • Having a visitor login and logout facility to monitor activity across the entire worksite. 
  • Regularly inspecting your chemical stores to ensure that your chemical inventory is not being misused or stolen. 
  • Educating your staff about the dangerous of hazardous chemicals and encouraging any suspicious behaviour to be reported to supervisors. 

REMEMBER: When conducting your chemical risk assessment, make sure you factor in the possibility of a deliberate act of malice, as well as all other possible incidents and hazardous situations. 

Getting Equipped To Deal With A Spill

Thanks for reading our blog which aimed to answer the question, ‘What is a spill kit’. As you can see, there are a multitude of considerations that you’ll have to make when purchasing or customising your chemical spill kits. Key factors to consider include the chemical compatibility of all items and materials, the type and quantity of chemicals onsite, and the ways in which chemical leaks or spills could occur in your business. By preparing your staff with the correct equipment, up-to-date training, and a clear spill response procedure, you’ll minimise the impact of a hazardous chemical spill.

To make sure your team are always prepared to deal with leaks and spillage, we've created a handy spill kit checklist. This checklist will help you inspect and maintain your spill kits so you can stay safe and compliant. Grab your copy now by clicking on the image below.

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