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What is a spill kit?

The basic procedure for the treatment of a spillage is to control the spread of the substance, to render it harmless and to dispose of it safely. A spill kit is a well-organised set of equipment that has been specifically designed to deal with cleaning up substances, from simple spills to more problematic leaks of all manner of substances.

Such as, but not limited to:

  • Body fluids.
  • Chemicals including acids and alkalis.
  • Oils.
  • Fuels, for example petrol, diesel.
  • Solvents.
  • Cooking oil and other foodstuffs.
  • Sewage.

Some of the most common contents found in spill kits can include:

  • Safety goggles.
  • Gloves.
  • Disposable bags.
  • Signage.
  • Absorbent socks – Socks are the first items you will likely be using for whatever spill you are cleaning up because their main purpose is to contain. You are going to want to lay these down on the edges of your spill, to put a border between any surface that your spill will likely cross
  • Absorbent pads – These are thin sheets that may or may not be perforated. You will want to use sorbent pads to help address the bulk of your spillage or mess. They also work really well as a towel or rag to clean off items that come in contact with whatever is being cleaned. You can also fasten these down to the floor to help absorb the everyday materials that might make their way to the floor, making them great for helping to prevent slips. There is a colour coding system to explain which one does what job:
    – Oil absorbent pads are white
    – Chemical absorbent pads are yellow
    – General purpose and water absorbent pads are black or grey
  • Absorbent pillows – These are basically a cross between the socks and the pads. These are great for tight spaces that have active leaks. The pillows will also be the sorbents that do the bulk of the work for a spill on a cement or concrete surface

Spill kits should be checked every 6 months to ensure all components are present, in good condition and within expiration date, and the date of verification should be recorded. All spills must be cleaned by personnel who are properly trained and have the proper equipment to handle infectious materials and hazardous chemicals.

There are a number of legal statutes and regulations that you need to adhere to for spill control.

These regulations include but are not limited to:

  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (2002) COSHH.
  • Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) Regulations (2001).
  • HSE – Amendments to ADR Regulations 8.1.5. Volume II – Carriage of Dangerous Goods (2009).
  • Health and Safety at Work, etc Act (1974).
  • Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations (2009).
  • Environment Agency – Pollution Prevention Guideline 26 (PPG 26) Section 7. Dealing with Spillages.
  • Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations (2015) COMAH.
Man using an oil spill kit

What is a spill kit used for?

It is an important part of any COSHH risk assessment to have an efficient emergency response plan. This will detail what should be done in the event of an accident, including leaks and spillages, involving any hazardous substances. Spill kits enable you to efficiently clean the spill or leak in the safest way possible.

Dealing with these incidents quickly and effectively will protect workers, premises and the wider environment from harm. Spills can pose a deadly threat in the workplace; not only can spills create a slipping hazard, but they can also be harmful to breathe in or come into contact with.

Spill kits are used in a variety of different workplaces and industries. These include:

  • Warehouses.
  • Workshops.
  • Auto repair and maintenance garages and workshops.
  • Laboratories.
  • Hospitals, clinics, ambulances and other medical and care establishments.
  • Emergency services such as police and fire service.
  • Commercial kitchens and restaurants.
  • Transport companies.
  • Oil, gas and mining sectors.
  • The armed forces.
  • Manufacturers.
  • Construction.
  • Farms.
  • Shipping, docks and marinas.
  • Local councils and public sector amenities.

Anyone working with hazardous substances will be likely to need a spill kit; for example, fluids are required to create products, lubricate machines, cool parts and to perform a variety of other tasks in a variety of workplaces. It is inevitable that spills will happen, but with effective preparation and the correct equipment they can be controlled and costly accidents can be avoided.

The purpose of a spill kit is to contain and clean up a spill as quickly and efficiently as possible; this is not only for the safety of workers and others but also for the protection of the environment.

The most beneficial component of a spill kit is that they are pre-packaged with all the materials that will be needed in the spill clean-up procedure as identified in the risk assessment.

Spill kits are needed in laboratories

Where can a spill kit be found?

The items of a spill kit should be stored in a container large enough for the spill and made out of an appropriate material to store the contents. Spill kits should be stored as close to the area where the liquid(s) the kit is designed to clean up is kept. For example, a medical facility should store blood-borne spill kits in the laboratory that tests blood.

Examples of places to keep spill kits include but are not limited to:

  • Most laboratory areas.
  • Areas in medical and care facilities.
  • Fuel pumps.
  • Commercial garage facilities.
  • Outdoor storage tanks.
  • Industrial and commercial kitchens.
  • Waste collection areas.
  • Vehicles carrying hazardous substances.

You need to identify your spill risk areas. Specifically, where they are, the risk type and quantities of hazardous materials. It may be difficult to know where to put spill kits. If this is the case, then the facility should be mapped out with the location, the types of liquids as well as quantity, and the potential spills that can occur. Use this as your starting point for placing kits around the workplace.

There are several different designs of spill kits available that can be beneficial in different situations. For example, there are spill kits that can be hung up on the wall for easy storage, spill kits housed in a wheeled bin for easy transportation, or kits in a duffel bag designed for drivers on the road.

What are the different types of spill kits?

Being ready for an accident or emergency will be a major part of your COSHH risk assessment. Identifying potential hazards in your workplace will give you a good understanding of what type of substances might need to be cleared up and whether spills or leaks are likely to be small or large scale. Using this information, you can decide what type and how much spill control material you need. Using a spill kit relevant to your site will ensure you have sufficient stock of the correct items.

Categories of spill kits include:

  • Biohazard and Laboratory.
  • Oil and Fuel.
  • Chemical.
  • Maintenance and Universal.
  • Specialised Spill Response Kits.
    – Spill kits for vehicles.
    – Mini spill kits.
    – Mobile spill kits.

Your workplace risk assessment will determine which type and how many spill kits you will need.

Spill kits should be in commercial kitchens

What is a chemical spill kit used for?

Spillage of chemicals or the release of gases, liquids, solids or vapours can occur as a result of the storage or handling of substances during manufacture, processing or transport by road, rail or air. The environmental aspects of the handling and use of chemicals are carefully controlled by Acts of Parliament and Statutory Instruments. Although these are not designed primarily for situations involving spillages, they nevertheless apply if chemicals are accidentally released.

In the case of a chemical spillage entering the sewers, the sewerage authority and the Environment Agency must be notified as soon as possible, to enable them to protect sewer workers and minimise the effect of the spillage on the treatment works. Account must be taken of the individual discharge consents, local trade effluent regulations and the dilution standards set by the trade effluent officers.

Chemical spill kits are for use inside and outside for spills, leaks and drips of corrosive chemicals and hazardous liquids. They absorb acids and alkalis as well as oil, water and coolants. The chemical absorbents contained in the chemical spill kit are usually made from polypropylene, ensuring excellent chemical resistance, and are the best way of dealing with acids, caustics and other corrosive chemical spills. Chemical spill kits are used in a variety of industries and public sector services.

Types of chemical spill kits include but are not limited to:

  • Chemical Spill Absorbent Mini Kit – These are intended for use in small vans, in larger vehicle cabs (kept under or behind the seat) and in storage areas to deal with small chemical spills, approximate absorbency 10–15 litres. The container is usually a clear plastic snap handle bag and they usually contain, for example:
    – Easy to follow instructions and contents check.
    – Chemical absorbent pads.
    – Chemical absorbent socks.
    – Dammit slab for the emergency sealing of leaks from holes, tears and ruptures.
    – A disposal bag and tie.
    – A pair of gloves.
    – A pair of goggles.
  • Chemical Spill Absorbent Grab Bag Kit – This spill kit is for use anywhere, inside or outside the workplace, for containing and cleaning up all types of chemical spills. Grab bags can be hung on a wall with extinguishers for a complete emergency station, placed outside in high-risk zones such as storage and transfer areas, in drum storage units and carried in vehicles for initial first response, approximate absorbency 25–45 litres. The grab bag is usually made from UV stabilised waterproof PVC with a waterproof double zip. They usually contain, for example:
    – Easy to follow instructions and contents check.
    – Chemical absorbent pads.
    – Chemical absorbent socks.
    – Chemical absorbent cushion.
    – Dammit slab for the emergency sealing of leaks from holes, tears and ruptures.
    – Disposal bag and tie.
    – Pair of gloves.
    – Pair of goggles.
  • Chemical Spill Kit in Heavy Duty Waterproof Container – This is a portable chemical spill kit that is used where quantities of liquids are stored, delivered or received. The approximate absorbency is 100–165 litres.They usually contain, for example:
    – Chemical absorbent pads.
    – Chemical absorbent socks.
    – Large chemical absorbent sock.
    – Chemical absorbent cushions.
    – Dammit mat, an emergency clay drain plugging mat to instantly seal a drain to prevent spilt oils and chemicals flowing into a storm drain and out to controlled waters.
    – Disposal bags and ties.
    – Dammit ready mix.
    – Personal safety kit.
Large containers carrying chemicals

What is in spill kits for hospitals?

In a hospital, or any other healthcare setting, hazardous substances such as bodily fluids, drugs, cleaning fluids and other chemicals are in very close proximity to hundreds of people each day. Some of these people, for example the hospital’s patients, may be extremely susceptible to infection, due to illness or recent surgery resulting in an open wound, so the effective cleaning of any spills is crucial for health.

Hospital environments also require the use of hazardous substances, so it is vital that contact with them is kept to a minimum, even by those who are used to handling such chemicals. Spillages can occur at any time in hospitals. This can be due to broken or faulty equipment, human error, or bodily fluids from patients and, if this happens, everyone in the area from staff to visitors to patients may be at risk. It may also mean that a department has to close temporarily, which means that vital services may be denied to those that need them.

Chemical and body fluids spill kits should be kept in every department in a hospital. These kits should contain all that is needed to clean and decontaminate an area after a spill has occurred. The type of kit required will depend on the substance that has been spilled and the size of the spill.

In addition to chemical spills kits, other spill kits used in a hospital setting can include:

  • Multi-use urine and vomit spill kit.
  • Chemo spill kit.
  • Blood spill kit.
  • Biohazard spill kit.

What is in a multi-use urine and vomit spill kit?

Unpleasant though they may be, spills of urine or vomit do not generally present the same high risk of viral infection as blood and some other body fluids. It must be noted that in cleaning up urine and vomit spills, adding chlorine products to urine can produce particularly unpleasant odours, and when used on vomit, chlorine-based chemicals may give off extra chlorine gas.

Urine and vomit spill kits should not contain any chlorine-based products so as to protect healthcare personnel dealing with such spills. These spill kits are usually compact kits with quantities of equipment for multiple incident use. The kits should be kept in areas where these types of spills might occur such as wards, accident and emergency areas, consulting areas etc.

They usually contain, for example:

  • Instruction leaflet.
  • Biocide absorbent granules.
  • Biocide spray.
  • Pairs of nitrile gloves.
  • Packs of disinfectant surface wipes.
  • Scoops and scrapers.
  • Clinical waste bags.
  • Aprons.

The multi-use urine and vomit spill kit is used throughout the NHS in hospitals, clinics, surgeries, laboratories and ambulances; in dental surgeries and also in veterinary practices; and in nursing and care homes, schools, offices, businesses, retail, ships and aircraft.

Woman using a spill kit

What is in a chemo spill kit?

Chemotherapy spill kits are intended for hospitals and clinics to help quickly contain a chemotherapy spill in order to limit patient and staff exposure. These spills may be liquid spills or powder spills. Chemotherapy spill kits are designed to handle the spillage of cytotoxic and other anti-cancer drugs including monoclonal drugs; these are drugs that are toxic to human cells. Chemotherapy spill kits should be kept in all areas where cytotoxic drugs are handled. These spill kits are usually compact kits for single incident use.

They usually contain, for example:

  • Waste bags.
  • Spill towels.
  • Caution Chemotherapy sign(s).
  • Caution Dry Spill sign(s).
  • Caution Chemotherapy Waste, drug spill labels.
  • Hazardous drug exposure form.
  • Scoop, scraper and brush.
  • Plastic tweezers.
  • Dust and mist respirator mask.
  • Pair(s) of latex or nitrile gloves.
  • Pair(s) of plastic eyeglasses with side shields or wrap around goggles.
  • Gown(s).
  • Pair(s) of shoe covers.
  • Plastic apron(s).
  • Armlets.
  • Absorbent towels and pads.
  • Tie wraps.
  • Sodium bicarbonate.
  • Bottle of sterile water.
Doctorusing a chemo spill kit

What is in a blood spill kit?

The Health and Social Care Act (2012) Code of Practice for the Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infection requires NHS organisations to have systems in place to minimise the risk of healthcare associated infection; this includes blood spillages. Dealing with spills of blood may expose healthcare workers, patients and others to blood-borne viruses or to other pathogens such as HIV and Hepatitis.

Blood spill kits are used in any occupational setting in which there is an expected or high risk of a blood spill such as hospitals, clinics, surgeries, laboratories and ambulances, dental surgeries and veterinary practices, nursing and care homes, the police and prison service, schools, offices, businesses, ships and aircraft.

A blood spill kit typically includes the following:

  • Instruction leaflet.
  • Clinical leak-proof waste bags or containers for disposing of blood-contaminated materials.
  • A scraper and pan for handling blood-soaked items.
  • A material to cover, absorb, or solidify blood, such as a granular formation or powder. These commonly contain chlorine or another disinfecting agent.
  • Paper towels.
  • PPE, such as eye protection, gloves, a face mask, and an apron.

Cleaning up large amounts of blood is normally left to professional cleaners, as blood spill kits do not completely clean and disinfect spill sites.

What is in a biohazard spill kit?

Hospitals and medical environments using biohazardous materials should have appropriate equipment and supplies on hand for managing spills and accidents involving biohazardous materials.

These include but are not limited to:

  • Breast milk.
  • Amniotic fluid.
  • Vaginal secretions.
  • Semen.
  • Excrement.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
  • Synovial fluid.
  • Pericardial fluid.
  • Pleural fluid.
  • Peritoneal fluid.
  • Unfixed tissues/organs.
  • Saliva.
  • Sharps waste, for example needles, glass slides and cover slips, scalpels, and IV tubing that has the needle attached.
  • Microbiological wastes – These are common in laboratory settings; examples of microbiological wastes include specimen cultures, disposable culture dishes, discarded viruses, and devices used to transfer or mix cultures.

The supplies available in a biohazard spill kit should include, but are not limited to:

  • Instruction leaflet.
  • Nitrile disposable gloves.
  • Lab coat(s).
  • Safety goggles.
  • N95 dust mask respirator(s).
  • Disposable shoe covers .
  • Absorbent material, such as absorbent paper towels, granular absorbent material, etc.
  • All-purpose disinfectant, such as normal household bleach.
  • Autoclavable bucket for diluting disinfectant (this can be used to store the kit contents when not in use).
  • Tongs and/or forceps and/or dustpan and hand broom or squeegee, etc. (for picking up broken glass or other contaminated sharps).
  • Sharps waste container(s).
  • Autoclavable biohazard waste bags – Autoclave or sterilisation bags are supplied for the secure containment of items intended for autoclaving, steam sterilisation, disposal or incineration.
  • Biohazardous spill warning signs.

All non-disposable items should be autoclavable or compatible with the disinfectant to be used.

People using biohazard safety equipment

Steps in spill response

  • Be aware: Make sure you know the risks and where the spill kits are located on your site.
  • Raise the alarm: At the very least, assistance may be needed.
  • Identify the spilled material: What are the risks? Can you handle it or do you need the emergency services?
  • Protect yourself: Make sure you have the correct personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Stop the source: Do you need to turn off valves, taps or patch a hole?
  • Contain the spill: Get socks or pads in place and, if necessary, drains covered as soon as possible.
  • Clean up: Work from the outside towards the centre of the spill.
  • Waste disposal: It will be likely the waste will be classed as hazardous.
  • Restock: Make sure you have got the kit to do the job next time.

Useful contacts

In conclusion

When emergencies happen, often the first steps taken can make all the difference. From simple spills to hazardous materials, dealing with an emergency spill can have a considerable impact on the people and environment around the incident. When a spill happens, having an emergency spill kit on hand can stop an accident turning into a disaster.

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About the author

Evie Lee

Evie Lee

Evie has worked at CPD Online College since August 2021. She is currently doing an apprenticeship in Level 3 Business Administration. Evie's main roles are to upload blog articles and courses to the website. Outside of work, Evie loves horse riding and spending time with her family.



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