Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Avoiding and dealing with chemical spills

Avoiding and dealing with chemical spills

You should manage your site carefully to reduce the risk of chemical spills. If you have a chemical spill on your site, it is important that your staff know how to deal with it. If you cause pollution you could be prosecuted and fined.

You should report pollution incidents as soon as they happen by calling the UK wide Pollution Hotline on Tel 0800 80 70 60.

Plan for pollution incidents

You should have a pollution incident response procedure in place for dealing with spills. Make sure that your staff are familiar with the procedure and know how to implement it. If you store lots of chemicals or have a chemical warehouse, you may need to install a spill alarm so that you can evacuate the building when there is a spill.

GPP 21: Pollution incident response planning

If you store large quantities of dangerous substances, then you may need a major accident prevention policy under the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations.


Prevent pollution from spills

Ensure that you have absorbent materials - such as sand and other containment equipment - suitable for the type and quantity of chemicals you store and use on your site. Keep them close to where you might need them, particularly in delivery areas. Make sure that your staff know where they are and how to use them. You can buy spill kits containing all the appropriate spill equipment for the chemicals you store.

Try to prevent liquid spills from entering drains, surface waters or groundwater. For example, use earth to block the flow of large spills, or use sand or a commercial spill kit to soak them up.

You should never hose down a spill, as you could cause a much worse pollution incident.

If you store chemicals in a vehicle, you should also carry a spill kit suitable for the quantity and type of chemicals you have.

GPP 22 Incident response – dealing with spills (Adobe PDF - 548KB)

Dispose of chemical leaks and spills safely

You must ensure that you clean up chemical leaks and spills correctly. You must dispose of waste chemicals and used spill equipment correctly and get it treated by an appropriate waste plant. You will need to deal with waste chemicals and materials contaminated with chemicals as hazardous waste.

You can only dispose of hazardous waste at a landfill site after it has been treated. Certain types of waste are banned from landfill, such as any chemicals that are:

  • explosive
  • corrosive
  • flammable
  • oxidising
  • infectious.

Hazardous/special waste

Safety showers

If you have safety showers on your site, ensure that you dispose of the water from the showers safely, as it may be contaminated. You can dispose of this water to the foul sewer, but you will need permission from your water company first.

Northern Ireland: Find water and sewerage operators on Water UK website

Scotland: Scotland on Tap

Further information

PPG 18 Managing fire water and major spillages (Adobe PDF – 132 KB)

GPP 21 Pollution incident response planning (Adobe PDF – 318KB)

GPP 22 Incident response – dealing with spills (Adobe PDF - 548KB)

In this Guideline

REACH and storing chemicals

Storage, handling and delivery of chemicals

Bulk chemical storage - tanks and drums

Secondary containment systems for chemicals

Small-scale chemical storage - Cabinets, shelves and vehicles

Chemical labelling and information

Avoiding and dealing with chemical spills

Temperature controlled chemical storage

Waste chemicals and chemical containers

Chemical storage environmental legislation

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