Disaster recovery - Hazardous substances
During a disaster, stores of hazardous substances can spill and mix together. Water may seep into storage areas, causing damage to packages of pesticides or deadly poisons. Here’s some advice on how to safely handle these hazards.
Spills of incompatible chemicals
Some hazardous substances cannot be stored near each other, because they may cause chain reactions if they mix together. In some workplaces a disaster may cause breaches of segregation. It’s important to make sure that hazardous substances don’t go into stormwater drains and that people involving in cleaning up are kept safe.
If your workplace has spills of hazardous substances to clear up:
- Identify (from the containers) what substances were spilled
- Consult the safety data sheets to see if mixing with another hazardous substance is dangerous
- If so, implement your emergency response plan, phone 111 and ask for Fire Service assistance for specialist input
- If the substances are compatible with each other, ensure the workers involved in the clean-up are wearing full protective clothing – impervious shoes, chemical-resistant overalls and gloves, face shields or goggles, respirators if necessary
- Do not let any of the substances drain into stormwater systems – either divert into a compound or bund (if your site has one) or blot up with absorbent material from your spill kit
- Contact the Council for advice on disposal. Large spills may require transport by specialist waste disposal companies.
Hazardous substances spoilt with water
Some hazardous substances, particularly dry or solid substances in paper packaging, may be spoilt with water.
If your workplace has packages of substances where water has penetrated:
- Wear all the necessary protective clothing for clearing up spills
- Move spoilt substances into a compound or area where leaks from the packaging can be contained
- Contain any water that was, or could have been, contaminated by the substances into a compound or blot with absorbent material
- Do not dilute with extra water and wash down stormwater drains unless instructions on the safety data sheet permit it.
- Contact your supplier to discuss pick-up and stock replacement.
When your workplace is clean again…
- Replenish the equipment you used, e.g. spill kits, disposable protective clothing and equipment, temporary compounding material
- If you want to make sure that your hazardous substance storage is HSNO-compliant, contact a Hazardous Substances Enforcement Officer from the Department of Labour on 0800 20 90 20.