Once a spill has been identified, assessed and addressed using the correct PPE equipment and procedures based on the product’s SDS you may be legally obligated to report the spill to your local authority.
As a precaution and to assist with reporting best practices, if the storage of hazardous materials is a regular activity within the workplace, the following should already be in place:
- Information regarding hazardous liquid materials stored within the workplace are recorded and accessible, including volume and location of stored liquids and safety data sheets
- Regulations governing safe storage of hazardous liquid materials is well established and correct procedures followed, including an understanding of the legal obligations of the business for safe handling and spill clean up and reporting
- An understanding of the information that should be contained within a report regarding a spill activity (if required), or where to access forms required to be completed when reporting a spill activity, the information that should be contained within the report and who it should be reported to.
When should you report a spill?
All pollution incidents of any nature should be reported as quickly as possible to your local authority.
This includes liquid spill events that have an environmental impact e.g. contaminants as a result of the liquid spill entering the stormwater network or local waterways and contamination of soil.
If the spill has been contained without any negative consequences for the environment, either now or in the future you are not under obligation to report the spill activity.
The source of the spill will often need to be addressed before risks can be assessed, appropriate PPE equipment specified and a cleanup procedure initiated.
Once you have assessed the liquid spill, including potential hazards to staff and equipment, your next step should be to select the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) for your responders addressing the spill.
Clean up Products and Procedures
Once the liquid spill has been assessed, potential hazards to staff and equipment identified and the appropriate PPE equipment provided to your designated responders based on the product’s safety data sheets (SDS) the next step in your spill response plan should be to begin the clean up process.
Who should you report a liquid spill to?
If the liquid spill is of a significant nature and poses a potential risk your first obligation is to call emergency services (000).
If however, the liquid spill does not pose a significant threat but has been deemed a ‘pollution event’ you are obliged to report the details of the spill to your local authority within your state, in most cases within 24 hours.
For example, NSW Business owners have a duty to report incidents of this nature under section 148 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act).
Depending on your location, you will be required to report the liquid spill event to either the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Local government. Please see below for useful contact information for each state:
(In many cases, pollution activity reporting forms will also be available on the local authority’s website)
Ideally, all businesses that may have an impact on the environment in any capacity should have an Environmental management plan (EMP) in place. An EMP will outline your responsibilities when it comes to reporting the impacts of a liquid spill in the workplace and who the incident should be reported to.
Preparation in the event of a hazardous liquid spill is always the best course of action for business owners that store potentially hazardous materials of any nature. Good preparation can prevent spills occurring in the first place, improve your response times (reducing the impact of the spill), and minimise potential threats to staff and/or equipment.