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December 01, 2022
Expert Tip: Hazmat spill response—First procedures to follow

Poorly executed hazardous material (hazmat) spill response procedures can expose coworkers and responders to hazardous substances, risking their lives and health, as well as potentially risking the health of the surrounding community and causing irreparable harm to the environment. It’s important to know the first response procedures you should take if you’re the person who discovers what is, or what might be, a spill of hazmat. Remember that it is not your responsibility to identify the material or dispose of it.

Review the Emergency Response Plan

To be properly prepared to respond to a hazardous spill, be sure to review your company’s emergency response plan (ERP). The ERP should clearly outline the procedures in case of a hazardous spill and will contain phone numbers to call for help and a list of the protective gear, equipment, and cleanup materials you’ll need.

Evacuate the Area

The first thing you should do if you see or smell a hazardous spill is evacuate the area. Move a safe distance away, and turn off any potential ignition sources if you can. Do not stop to take a closer look, particularly without proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Any size spill can be dangerous. If you don’t know the hazmat or how to properly deal with it, keep your distance, and wait for someone with more training or experience to identify the substance.

Get Help

Do not try to contain or clean up a spill alone. Follow proper notification procedures as described in the ERP so you can get the right help in the shortest-possible time. If you happen to know the identity of the spilled material, let those people who are coming to help know of it as soon as possible.

Alert Others

You should next seal off the area and alert coworkers. Keep people who are not involved in the spill response away from the hazard, and warn your fellow employees of the dangers.

Assist Injured Coworkers

Look around for injures, and if you find an injured coworker:

  • Get the person to fresh air as soon as safely possible.
  • Keep the person comfortable.
  • Get medical treatment as soon as possible.
  • Administer first aid only if you have received specific training for the type of injury.

Never try to retrieve a person from the spill area unless you’re completely protected with appropriate PPE. You don’t want to become a casualty yourself.

If you follow these response procedures, you will have played a crucial role in helping to avoid a potentially catastrophic situation.

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