2020-08-17

Are you wondering how you should respond to an accidental hazardous material spill?

The following procedure will explain the steps necessary to control the spill of a substance that present risks to the environment and the health and safety of workers and the community. Applying it properly will limit the impact of such an incident.

1 – Evaluate the situation

The first thing to do in the event of an accidental spill is to assess the situation.

You should first identify the substances spilled and cautiously identify the source of the leak. If the spilled substance releases toxic gases or is prone to explosions, move away from the accident site, establish a safety perimeter and quickly contact an emergency spill response company.

For more information on a chemical substance, you may refer to its data sheet (WHMIS). You should also contact hazardous waste management specialist to minimize risks no matter the nature of the substance.

2 – Stop or control the hazardous material spill

If the substance in question can be harmful to your health, attempt to control the spill while waiting for the emergency environmental response unit.

Before approaching the spill, make sure to turn off any appliances or devices that could create a spark or be a source of ignition (cigarette, engine, telephone, etc.). Slowly approach the leak with the wind at your back—to avoid breathing in harmful gases—while wearing protective clothing and gloves.

You can then control the leak as best as you can with one of the following strategies:

  • Direct the leak into an empty container
  • Place absorbent pads
  • Move the leaking container
  • Perform temporary repairs
  • Use any other method that could be efficient without posing additional risks

3 – Contain the spill

You should then contain the spilled material in the smallest possible area.
If the spill is outside, on the ground or on the road, it will be important to protect nearby sewers and waterways by trapping contaminants with soil or sand embankments. You can also use absorbent materials to prevent the hazardous substance from entering the ground.

If the spill is in water, you can slow down the spread of the substance by using floating barriers, booms or a rudimentary dam.

Finally, if the spill is in an industrial building, you should cover drains and use absorbent materials to avoid dispersion on the sealed surface.

4 – Recover spilled material

Recovering spilled material and restricting its migration as much as possible involves taking into account the material properties and the weather conditions. 

An emergency environmental services company may need to pump hazardous products using specialized equipment or even excavate the soil to remove contaminants. In less severe situations, you may absorb the spill with pads, pellets, sawdust, sand, etc.

Warning: all materials that were in contact with the spilled material must be stored properly until disposal.

5 – Dispose of contaminated materials

Disposal of hazardous materials must comply with government regulations. For example, contaminated soil or the contents of a vacuum truck used for pumping have to be transported to an authorized treatment or landfill site.

If you work with an environmental services company, it should have a hazardous materials transportation permit which allows it to legally circulate with hazardous residual materials.

6 – Prepare a spill report

The last step is to prepare a report containing relevant information about the event:

  • Date and location of the spill
  • Description of the incident and related damages
  • Causes of the incident
  • Temporary and permanent corrective action following the event
  • Description of third party damages (if any)

EBI Enviro Urgence is here to help in the event of a hazardous material spill

In conclusion, there is no time to lose following a spill if you want to minimize its impact on the health of the population and the environment. You should always immediately contact an environmental emergency service as soon as possible.

EBI Enviro Urgence guarantees that procedure will be closely followed and the most effective strategies will be implemented quickly. We also have all the specialized equipment needed to facilitate the response.

In the case of a spill, your best bet is to contact us!