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Spill control and containment

Spill kits in a workplace

Most businesses that work with chemicals and hazardous substances are aware of the risks, regulations and procedures required to contain and control spillages that can damage the environment and cause harm to people.

But the fact is that most businesses produce dirty water which could cause pollution if it enters rivers, streams, the sea or groundwater.

Many sites also store, handle and use a wide range of other liquid materials which may not seem harmful, but which can be damaging to the environment if they are spilled in large quantities -- for example, if there was a flood.

No matter what sector your business operates in, there are severe penalties in the event of a failure to control spillages which then go on to cause damage to the environment or people.

In this guide, we’ll outline helpful products and procedures to help control and contain spills.

Step 1: Take the Environment Agency’s 10 point checklist

This helpful list from the Environment Agency helps you to develop an environmental management system so you can demonstrate and actively manage and minimize any spillage and the harmful impacts these might have.

Spill containment

Common causes of spills include:

• overfilling or poor handling of storage containers

• equipment and containment failure;

• a collision or accident during transport or delivery;

• pipework failure;

• extreme incidents such as flooding or fires

Containers, tanks and storage

Primary containment will ordinarily prevent spills from happening. All hazardous liquids should be stored in containers that are fit for purpose, correctly labelled and then regularly inspected and maintained to ensure that they are not corroded or leaking.

As a further precaution, it is helpful to use secondary spill containment measures with containers being stored on spill pallets or trays which would contain any small leaks. All containers should be stored in areas that are sited away from watercourses, drains and unmade surfaces.

Spill containment is where spills of chemicals, oils, sewage, etc. are contained within a barrier or drainage system rather than being absorbed at the surface. Spill containment is considered by many to be a more eco-friendly solution than using absorbent spill kits that control a spillage as these may require disposal after use and do not permit recycling of the spilled agent. In addition, Installing spill containment measures prior to a spill can result in significant savings in the event of a spill as clean-up costs can be significant.

Oil storage

Oil storage regulations are now a legal requirement in both England and Scotland. In Ireland and Wales, companies need to be aware of their duty of care in terms of pollution and the environment These regulations apply to any industrial, commercial or institutional site storing 200 litres or more of oil or fuel above ground in one or more containers. In England, the regulations only apply to outdoor storage, although the recommended ‘Pollution Prevention Guidelines’ from the environment agency would apply to indoor storage. In Scotland, the regulations apply to both outdoor and indoor storage.

All containers storing oil or fuel, whether a drum, an IBC (Intermediate Bulk Containers) or a tank must be sufficiently bunded within themselves or stood on a spill pallet or drip tray that provides sufficient containment. The bund must have sufficient capacity to contain 110% of the contents of the largest container or 25% of the total capacity stored, whichever is greater. In the case of single drums, a drip tray with a capacity of 25% of the contents is normally acceptable, apart from drums sited in high-risk areas.

Drain protection

It’s helpful to have products and measures in place to ensure that drains can be blocked off quickly and easily in the event of a spill. Drain covers that can quickly be installed should a spillage occur are valuable products to have in key areas.

Spill control cabinets

Our Safestor cabinets comply with all COSHH regulations and are purpose-built for the indoor safe storage of flammables and chemicals, including paint and other hazardous substances. Our medium-sized SAFESTOR CHEMICAL CABINET, (900X465X1800MM, 35L SUMP, £356.25) also features a liquid-tight sump to contain spillages.

You can see more spill containment products including spill pallets, spill trays, storage containers and spill kits from page 158 in the Spill Control and COSHH section of our Safety Signage and Workplace Safety catalogue.

We can also advise on a wide range of products which might suit your needs. Call 01726 74264 or email

Delivery and handling procedures:

Procedures and training should be put in place for the safe delivery and handling of all liquid materials and that training on these procedures is provided. For example, operations involving containers of substances that could cause harm if spilled, such as unloading must not take place over an open drain.

If you transport materials by road consider what you can do if you have a spill or collision.

• Ensure vehicles have correct signage

• Stock vehicle spill kits in the vehicle;

• Be prepared for fuel tank and Adblue spills.


Absorbents are an effective way to clean up spills, particularly small spills. They are generally available in the following forms

Socks (Minibooms) are ideal for surrounding a leak or isolating an area you want to work in when there is a spill risk. Booms can be used on land or water to contain a range of spill types, are excellent for preventing pollution entering the water system

Pads can be used anywhere that fluids have leaked or spilled. Rolls provide larger areas of absorbent for placing on a work surface or flooring and pillows can be used to clean up spills in small spaces.

Granules are a loose absorbent and can be cost-effective when cleaning up oil, fuel, chemical and general spills in small areas. The granules absorb the spilled substance and are then swept away and disposed of safely.

Chemical absorbents are the best choice to manage spills of fluids such as acids and alkalis which are harmful to handle. These should be used with the correct PPE and also disposed of appropriately and carefully.

Maintenance absorbents can be used to clean up non-aggressive chemical spills as well as other fluids such as water, milk or wine, for example.

Oil absorbents absorb oil only and repel water. They float and can be skimmed off and disposed of when they are fully saturated.

Spill Kits include an appropriate combination of absorbents, sheets & hazard waste bags to deal with your spill risk. The kits should be strategically placed at key spill risk areas.

Filtration systems

Filtration systems are a simple and economic way of dealing with contaminated water. They remove hydrocarbons and sediment helping you to comply with the Environment Agency Pollution Prevention Guidelines PPG6, which require that the majority of suspended solids (gravel, sand, and silt) must be removed from site water before it is discharged into a drain, sewer or watercourse.

For more detailed guidance and to help with your risk assessment, you can see guidance Incident Response - dealing with spills: PPG22 from the Environment Agency on how to at the UK Spill Association website here:

Find more helpful products:

You can see our range of spill control products such as spill trays, bund flooring, absorbents and other products to help you comply with COSHH regulations from page 158 in the Spill Control and COSHH section of our Safety Signage and Workplace Safety catalogue

Our experienced team can also advise on products which might suit your needs. Call 01726 74264 or email


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