Hazardous material spill or leak

A hazardous material is a product or substance that has the potential to harm life, health, property or the environment. Hazardous substances come in many shapes and forms from industrial chemicals and pesticides to paints, gases and fumes.

In the event of a spill, the following precautions should be taken:

  1. Isolate the spill

  2. Contain where possible

  3. Evacuate from the area 

  4. Treat first aid, seek medical advice

  5. Notify authorities

Protect yourself and others –

Immediately notify others in the area of the spill ensuring that passers-by of the spill (in corridors, paths and roads) are made aware and ensure the area is kept free of traffic (pedestrian and vehicular). Do not touch any harmful substance. Be aware that fumes may pose a risk.

Evacuate the area –

Only if necessary. If possible, as you leave, close doors to prevent further contamination and turn off any ignition sources. Evacuate the building as instructed to do so by staff/emergency services. Walk quickly and calmly to the assembly area or as advised by emergency personnel. Remain in the assembly area until released by the ECO or emergency services.

In the case of a fire every effort must be made to prevent undue spreading of contamination. However, fire fighting must take precedence over the control of contamination.

Isolate and control access –

Do not allow non-essential personnel to enter the spill area. If possible isolate the affected area at a safe distance by erecting a temporary barricade and placing suitable warning signs.

Raise the alarm -

Contact the local area supervisor, building warden, workshop/laboratory manager as appropriate to report and/or to seek advice on rectification action. Advise Security (1800 646 501) and notify Emergency Services (000) if necessary.

Provide the following information:

  • Location of Spill (including building and room number)
  • Identification and quantity of material
  • Known hazard/s of the materials
  • Condition of any injured personnel
  • Explanation of incident
  • Current status of area

Source the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) -

Information on the management of spills of chemical/hazardous materials can be found on Safety Data Sheets (previously Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) contained within your department. SDS can be obtained from Chemwatch.

Apply First Aid -

Source the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the substance (if available) and treat contaminated individuals as per the SDS. If required, summon a CDU First Aid Officer, or ambulance (000).

If someone eats or swallows or becomes sick from contact with a hazardous substance contact Poisons Information on 131 126 – available 24 hours, 7 days

Isolate affected persons and keep on site - 

Anyone who has been exposed must, if safe to do so, be moved to a safe decontamination area. The treatment of serious injury must take precedence over decontamination and containment. If anyone is contaminated, set up an isolation area. If available and only if it is safe to do so, put on personal protective equipment, observe and support the person until emergency services arrive. DO NOT put yourself at risk

Control the spill/leak source -

Stop the spill/leak – Only if safe to do so. Contain the spill with a barrier or use appropriate absorbent material from a spills kit.  Approach with care and never assume the substance is harmless as many hazardous substances are colourless and may not produce unpleasant or noticeable odours. Avoid breathing fumes or vapours from the spill. Ensure you are wearing correct PPE to respond to the spill.
Clean up and decontaminate the area - In conjunction with expert assistance, minimise the spread of contamination and commence clean up procedures promptly and thoroughly and neutralise any acids / alkalis. For any clean-up activities there must be a minimum of two people.

All contaminated material (wipes, gloves, clothing etc.) must be disposed of into the appropriate waste bin (e.g. chemical waste, biohazardous waste, quarantine waste) after disinfection or decontamination procedures are completed.

Review -

When decontamination is complete, check equipment and facility infrastructure for contamination or damage. Report any issues to local area supervisor for remedial action.

Notify –

All incidents involving major spills or leaks must be reported by completing an Accident Incident and Injury Report.

Under certain circumstances the CDU WHS team or external agencies/regulators may need to carry out an investigation.

Under the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011, it is a requirement to notify NT WorkSafe if certain incidents occur at the workplace. Notifiable incidents include: a death of a person; or a serious injury or illness of the person; or a dangerous incident.
The area must not be disturbed (except for immediate actions taken to render the area safe or remove affected persons) until any investigation is completed.

The following regulators must be notified of spills, leaks or accidental releases of any quantity:

Lecture theatres/laboratories

It is the responsibility of the lecturer/tutor to ensure that their class is evacuated and to maintain control of the students during the emergency until released by the ECO or emergency services

Further information