Spill management

A spill of any hazardous substance on your site can pollute the environment if it is not dealt with properly. A spill outdoors may run straight into the storm water system and pollute the nearest stream, river, beach or groundwater - unless you know what to do and do it immediately.

Even seemingly harmless things like sugar or milk are lethal to stream or sea life. Bio-degradable substances like foodstuffs and some cleaning agents as well as many other every day hazardous substances such as petrol can harm our environment.

Every spill must be cleaned up, to:

  • protect staff safety
  • prevent water pollution
  • allow safe, prompt disposal
  • minimise your environmental liability

If spills get down the storm water drain and into the environment:

  • contamination will affect a wide area.
  • members of the public may be placed at risk.
  • controlling the pollution is much more difficult.
  • clean-up costs are greatly increased.
  • enforcement action could be taken against you or your company.

We've provided some key tips below for managing spills on your site.

The Pollution Prevention Guide and the Builders Pocket Guide Booklet have more information, checklists and forms to help ensure you are ready to deal with spills on your site.

Also available is Environment Canterbury's online small spills training course (not available in Southland).

Spill clean up and disposal equipment

Any company that uses hazardous substances should have spill containment and clean up equipment. This should include equipment for:
  • containing and cleaning up a spill such as a shovel, broom, drain covers, sandbags, booms and absorbent material. All spills need to be handled with compatible materials.
  • storing and disposing of spilled material such as safe containers, bags, and drums.
  • protecting the health and safety of your staff. (see personal protective equipment below).

You could either:

  • buy a standard kit or kits, or
  • buy a wheelie bin and fill it with what you have identified you will need.

Check the specific Safety Data Sheets for the equipment that is required to clean up spills of the chemicals on your premises. The spill kit should be able to handle the maximum likely spill volume.

Personal protective equipment

Many hazardous substances look harmless but they may be dangerous to people, even in small amounts. All sites that use hazardous substances should have personal protective equipment.

At a minimum this should include:

  • gloves
  • goggles
  • boots
  • aprons and overalls

You should also consider the need for things like respirators, chemical protection suits (double layers and taping), buddy systems, first aid and emergency treatment.

Check the specific Safety Data Sheets for the equipment that is required to handle the chemicals on your premise.

Drain protection

Protect stormwater drains by blocking off access to them by either:

  • covering the drain with drain mats or sandbags; or
  • containing the spill with absorbent products from the spill kit.

Spill procedure

Ensure you know what to do if there is a spill on your site. The key steps are:

  1. Be safe
    • Do you know what the spilt material is?
    • Do you need personal protective equipment?
    • Get the right safety equipment before you act.
  2. Stop the source
    • Turn off the tap or valve, plug the leak or roll the drum over - if it is safe to do so.
  3. Protect stormwater
    • Confine the spill with sandbags or booms.
    • Liquid spills: contain with compatible materials, so they can't spread.
    • Powder type spills: cover with plastic to stop them blowing around.
    • Block off access to storm water grates, sumps and interceptors.
  4. Notify
    • Tell your supervisor.
    • Inform agencies such as the Fire Service or call the 24/7 Pollution Response Hotline toll-free on 0800 76 88 45.
  5. Clean-up
    • Liquid spills: pump into a safe container, absorb them with appropriate materials or mix them with a compatible solid so you can sweep them up for disposal. Don't use dispersants or emulsifiers.
    • Powder spills: sweep or vacuum up and put them in a safe container.
    • If the spill needs to be neutralised, get a properly qualified staff member to supervise. Otherwise, phone the Fire Service, a reputable waste disposal contractor or Environment Canterbury and tell them what the material is.
    • Keep the contaminated area as small as possible. If it can be avoided, don't walk through the spill.
    • Clean up the area and any contaminated equipment or clothing after removing the spill - keep within the contained area, stop wash water or sweepings getting into storm water or soil.
  6. Dispose responsibly
    • Dispose of contaminated materials and clean up gear or clothing as a hazardous waste or ask your waste disposal contractor to dispose of it for you.
    • Do not hose spill, or tip wastes down the storm water drain.
    • Re-use uncontaminated materials wherever possible.
  7. Restock and review
    • Replace any containment equipment or protective gear immediately.
    • Do a spill report immediately to find out how and why the spill happened.
    • Check your spill procedure: do you need to update it to be better prepared?

Safety Data Sheets

You should have a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each substance held on your site in more than household quantities. These contain what to do in an emergency or in case of a spill; you should keep a copy of each SDS near where you keep the substance – it may be helpful to laminate this copy. Someone on site should be responsible for making sure all you have all necessary SDS and they are up to date i.e. not more than 5 years old. You can obtain any missing SDS from the product supplier or the New Zealand Chemical Council, phone (04) 499 4311.

Contact details

An emergency telephone contact list of who to call in the event of a spill should be available on the walls or a shelf near the spill station.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

In the event of a spill, who can I contact for help or advice? 

Environment Southland has a 24-Hour Pollution Hotline 0800 76 88 45, which you can call immediately for help and advice about containing and cleaning up your spill. You should also have an emergency contact list at your spill station with emergency numbers.

Why is a spill a problem? 

A spill of any hazardous substance on your site can pollute the environment if it is not dealt with properly.  A spill outdoors may run into the stormwater system and pollute the nearest stream, river, beach or groundwater - unless you know what to do and do it immediately.  

Even seemingly harmless substances like sugar or milk are lethal to stream or sea life. Bio-degradable substances like foodstuffs and cleaning agents as well as many other every day hazardous substances like petrol can harm our environment. ​

How can I prepare myself for a spill emergency? 

Any company that uses hazardous substances should have spill containment and clean up equipment or a spill kit.  This should include equipment for:

  • Containing and cleaning up a spill such as a shovel, broom, drain covers, sandbags, booms and absorbent material. All spills need to be handled with compatible materials.  
  • Storing and disposing of spilled material such as safe containers, bags, and drums.  
  • Protecting the health and safety of your staff with Personal Protective Equipment.

 You could either:

  • buy a standard kit or kits, or 
  • buy a wheelie bin and fill it with required items you have identified.

Check the specific Safety Data Sheets for the equipment that is required to clean up spills of the hazardous substances on your premises.  The spill kit should be able to handle the maximum likely spill volume.

Why is a spill down the storm water drain a problem? 

Usually stormwater drains  directly into local waterways without any treatment, which means: 

  • contamination will affect a wide area.  
  • members of the public may be placed at risk.  
  • controlling the pollution is much more difficult.   
  • clean up costs are greatly increased.  
  • enforcement action could be taken against you and your company

What is a spill kit? 

A spill kit consists of spill containment and clean up equipment which is specific to clean up a potential spill of hazardous substances stored and handled on your company premises.

Do I need a spill kit? 

Accidental spills occur frequently in the workplace so, if you have hazardous substances on your site, you need to make sure you can respond quickly.

It's your responsibility to clean it up. Hazardous substances can be fuels, oils, paints or any other chemicals that can harm people or the environment.

 Once a contaminant leaves a site, liability starts. Personal liability for environmental offences means staff and directors can no longer shelter behind a company that pollutes. This means that everyone from staff (including temporary staff), sub-contractors, leading hands, owners and directors need to know how to act responsibly.

 Any environmental impacts or discharges that occur due to a contracted company's actions that lead to penalties or fines can also result in fines for the business or site owner, as the contractor or sub contractor is carrying out work on their behalf.

Where can I get a spill kit from? 

Many health and safety suppliers and retailers sell full spill kits ranging

in size, type and price. The majority of retailers also sell individual spill

kit components so you can supply your own container, like a clean sealable drum, and fill it up with the necessary supplies yourself. Check with your usual health and safety equipment provider to find out what they can offer.

Where should the spill kit be located? 

Your spill kit should be located near your hazardous substances storage site or use area and should be easy to access.

 Depending on what substances you store and use on-site, you may need multiple spill kits to deal with different substances. It may cost you a bit of money to get your spill kit, but it'll be worth it if you do have a spill.​

Are there other ways besides having a spill kit to reduce the risks of spills on your site? 

Typically, spills happen accidentally but you can improve your site practices to minimise your risk:

  • Keep your site tidy to prevent containers from being knocked over.
  • Check all your containers regularly to make sure they are in good condition and there are no leaks or spills hidden between containers.
  • Keep any hazardous substances away from the main doors and drains, and in a designated covered, contained area on sealed ground.

Review your on-site practices. Ask yourself:

  • Could your containers be moved to a part of the site where they will be at lesser risk of being damaged or spilt?
  • Could moving containers or drums around the site be made easier and safer?
  • Do you or your employees use suitable equipment to transfer substances in or out of containers, such as funnels or pumps?
  • Do you use drip trays or pads to capture drips and if so, is there a way that you could prevent drips from occurring in the first place?
Page reviewed: 06 May 2016 4:04pm