What Is A Major Chemical Spill?

Tuesday 19th September 2023

Ellen Warren

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Two people assessing a liquid chemical spill on the ground

CONTENTS

When it comes to major chemical spills, these disasters destroy our environment and people's well-being. In the event of a large chemical spill, qualified individuals are forced to evacuate and call upon a chemical spill cleaning company to assist.

At ICE Cleaning, we offer chemical clean-up services, where our team can effectively contain, clean, and decontaminate an area affected by a chemical spill. We can be on-site within a few hours of your first call, and we will work closely with local authorities to ensure everyone's safety on-site.

Read on to discover what constitutes a 'major' chemical spill and how different types of spills require unique responses. 

What is a chemical spill?

A chemical spill is an unexpected discharge of hazardous substances into the natural environment with severe and potentially dangerous consequences. These spills can occur anywhere from industrial sites to your household cleaning cupboard; even small leaks can pose serious threats.

This risk increases significantly with hazardous substances such as acids or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - these can cause harm to both people and wildlife alike.

Types of chemical spills

In specialist cleaning, we categorise chemical spills into two types: minor and major. A minor spill usually involves a small amount of less hazardous chemicals. A major spill, however, refers to large quantities of dangerous substances that need immediate attention. 

The potential consequences of not dealing with a major spill can be devastating for people's health and the environment. To help tackle these emergencies effectively, knowledge about different spills is vital in planning safety measures and clean-up procedures.

When a major chemical spill occurs, it can cause a lasting impact, not only in terms of the environment and public health, but also similar to an unsightly stain that is hard to remove.

Steps to take during a major chemical spill

Evaluate

  • Identify the type of chemical involved: Refer to safety data sheets (SDS) or labels to determine the hazard level.
  • Determine the quantity spilled
  • Did the spill occur indoors, outdoors, in a confined space, or near sensitive areas like water sources or electrical equipment?

Safety

  • Put on appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), which may include gloves, goggles, a lab coat, and a respirator if necessary.
  • Alert others in the vicinity and ensure they maintain a safe distance.
  • If the chemical is particularly hazardous or the spill is large, consider evacuating the area and contacting emergency services.

Containment

  • Use absorbent materials like spill kits, absorbent pads, or sand to create a barrier around the spill.
  • Cover any ground drains that may infiltrate local water systems.

Locate source

  • Turn off valves, close containers, or seal any openings that may be releasing the chemical.
  • If you cannot stop the source, continue containing the spill to prevent it from spreading further.

Ventilate

  • Open windows and doors if indoors.
  • Use fans to direct fumes away from the area if necessary.
  • Be cautious when using fans or ventilation systems to avoid spreading the chemical further.

Contact

  • Call local authorities to inform them of the danger.
  • Contact a chemical spill clean-up company

Aftermath

  • Use monitoring equipment to check for residual chemicals or fumes.
  • Confirm that all equipment and PPE used during clean-up are decontaminated or disposed of properly.
  • Conduct air quality tests if necessary.

Record

  • Record the type and quantity of chemical involved.
  • Document actions taken during clean-up.
  • Keep copies of SDS and any reports related to the incident.

After the cleaning, we recommend that you conduct a post-incident review to identify any reason for the spill and improve spill response procedures for the future. 

You must refer to your organisation's specific safety protocols and local regulations when tackling chemical spills. Procedures may vary depending on the chemicals involved and the environment in which the spill occurs.

Preventing chemical spills

Preventing chemical spills is an important part of keeping workplaces secure, especially in industrial environments. All workers are at risk of exposure or injury, so it is vital to set out proper steps for prevention, which include the following:

  • Store chemicals in appropriate containers designed for their specific properties
  • Supply trays, spill pallets, or bunds to capture leaks or spills from containers
  • Clearly label all chemical containers
  • Maintain an updated inventory of all chemicals in your facility
  • Provide thorough training to employees and individuals who handle chemicals
  • Perform a risk assessment to identify potential sources of chemical spills
  • Develop comprehensive spill response plans
  • Implement engineering controls such as drip pans, automatic shut-off valves, and leak detection systems to prevent or minimise spills
  • Maintain up-to-date SDS for all chemicals on-site and make them readily accessible to employees
  • Provide spill kits, absorbents, personal protective equipment (PPE), and eyewash stations
  • Establish a clear process for reporting and investigating near misses and minor spills to identify root causes

Disposal of contaminated materials

Following a major chemical spill, these substances need careful handling and treatment to prevent further harm to the environment or people. It is essential to determine the type of dangerous material present so you can determine the appropriate disposal method. 

Those working with specialist cleaning companies have extensive experience dealing with such scenarios. You should hire trained professionals who are well-equipped to handle this responsibly and ensure that all local regulations are met during the cleaning process.

Frequently asked questions

What is considered a chemical spill?

A chemical spill is an uncontrolled release of hazardous chemicals that affects the environment and public health.

What is a major spill?

A 'major spill' means an accidental discharge of substances, often harmful ones like oil or chemicals in large amounts, causing severe environmental damage.

What is a minor chemical spill?

'Minor' spills are smaller releases which can be quickly contained with spill kits or absorbent mats.

How do you handle a major chemical spill?

To deal with a big spill, you must first evacuate everyone nearby. Then, alert authorities and a cleaning company for professional cleaning help. Always follow safety procedures to avoid exposure to dangerous substances.

Get in touch

When a major chemical spill occurs, you can rely on our trained professionals at ICE Cleaning. We offer chemical spill cleaning services, utilising state-of-the-art equipment and solutions to contain a spill. Our industrial-grade solutions ensure your workplace is safe to occupy again.

To learn more about our extensive cleaning services, you can talk to our team at 0208 066 0360 or enquiries@icecleaning.co.uk. Our phone lines are open 24/7, 365 days a year, and we offer emergency response services for urgent matters including chemical, oil, or trauma cleaning.

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