10. Emergencies and Spills


In the event of an accidental leak, spill or uncontrolled release of a hazardous substance, the actions outlined in Attachment 1:  Emergency Responses should be taken by employees and students.

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) specify the emergency and first aid actions to be taken with the management of hazardous substances.  Before using any hazardous substances employees, students and other persons must read the SDS for that substance.

The appropriate Category 4 Delegate must ensure that appropriate training in managing hazardous substance emergencies and spills is provided to employees and students working with such substances.

Persons working with hazardous substances must know the location of all emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits, safety showers, telephones and contact numbers.  Refer 10.1.1 Spill Equipment for more information.

For more general information on the University's emergency responses, refer to the Workplace Health and Safety Emergency procedures manual.

10.1  Spills

Read the relevant SDS for information on spills.

Three general rules apply:

  1. All minor spills must be cleaned up promptly and thoroughly using personal protective equipment and appropriate control measures.
  2. There should be two people present when cleaning up a spill.
  3. If the substance spilled cannot be identified, assume the worst and implement emergency responses outlined in Attachment 1.

All persons not directly concerned with the emergency should be evacuated from the area of contamination.

Spills must be immediately reported to the work area supervisor, and if the spill cannot be immediately contained, the Emergency Services must be contacted by dialling ext 2222 (all hours). 

Only if the hazards of the material and the correct clean-up procedures are known by the employee should spills be cleaned up without using the emergency control procedures in Attachment 1.  In most cases spills can be dealt with by employees using the available spill equipment with minimal effort or risk.

10.1.1  Spill equipment

To deal with spills that may occur, managers and supervisors should ensure that spill equipment is available and kept up to date and in an accessible area.  To determine the equipment needed it is necessary to consider the particular substances that are used and the information provided on the SDS. 

Spill equipment may include:

  • personal protective equipment (eg chemical resistant gloves, protective clothing, safety glasses, face shield) and suitable respiratory apparatus;
  • material to contain or absorb a spill, such as dry sand or any product listed on the SDS;
  • specific absorbents stored close to where the chemical is used (eg sodium carbonate for acids);
  • warning signs and spill barriers;
  • appropriate containers for waste storage;
  • leakage overdrums or other containers in which leaking containers can be placed;
  • clean-up tools (eg mops, buckets, shovels);
  • chemical reagents;
  • portable ventilation equipment;
  • telephone located near to where hazardous substances are used;  and
  • emergency shower and eye wash.

Further information may be obtained from USQSafe.

10.1.2  Injuries from spills

Spills of hazardous substances can be harmful if they come into contact with the body and should be treated as serious even if considered minor.

Refer to the SDS for first aid information.  Some general guidelines are outlined:

Spills on the body

  • Remove all contaminated clothing only under a safety shower after the clothing has been thoroughly washed.
  • Wash the exposed area with soap and plenty of water for a minimum of 20 minutes.
  • Some substances may require more specialised treatment (eg calcium gluconate gel for hydrofluoric acid injuries).
  • Seek medical advice immediately.

Spills into the eyes

  • Flush out the eyes immediately with plenty of fresh tepid low-pressure water or any available sterile eye-wash for at least 20 minutes.
  • Seek medical advice immediately.

10.2  Reporting of Injuries and Hazards

All injuries must be recorded and reported on the Incident Investigation form which is available from faculty or department administration sections, the Student Services Medical Clinic, the Safety Coordinator, USQSafe or from the USQSafe Website.

Individuals have an obligation to eliminate, guard against or protect others from any hazards or incidents as soon as they are recognised.  If the hazards or incidents cannot be rectified immediately, the person must report the hazards or incidents on the Hazard Report and Investigation form. 

A hazard report and investigation form is available from faculty or department administration, the Student Services Medical Clinic or from USQSafe.

Electronic hazard reporting is also available by accessing the University Hazard and Incident Reporting and Tracking System (UniHIRTS)

For more details of these procedures, refer to the Workplace Health and Safety Procedures Manual, Section H1 - Hazard Reporting.

10.3  USQSafe contact

Manager (USQSafe)

10.4  Status

Published October 1998
Reviewed October 2009
Reviewed November 2012

10.5  References

Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld)
Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 Hazardous Chemicals (Qld)
Hazardous Chemicals Code of Practice 2003
USQSafe Workplace Health and Safety Procedures Manual, Section E1 - Emergency Procedures, Section H1 - Hazard or Incident Reporting

10.6  Attachments

Attachment 1 - Emergency Responses: Hazardous Substances (PDF* 10KB)

This file is in Portable Document Format (PDF) which requires the use of Adobe Acrobat Reader. A free copy of Acrobat Reader may be obtained from Adobe. Users who are unable to access information in PDF should contact USQSafe to obtain this information in an alternative format.