Being prepared to manage an agrichemical spill is part of practicing good agrichemical safety - protecting human health and the environment are essential parts of being a responsible applicator.
Agrichemical spills occur in three common ways:
- during storage or transportation (e.g. damaged containers or a vehicle accident)
- when mixing the spray solution (e.g. human error)
- during application (e.g. equipment malfunction)
Proper training in handling agrichemicals is the best way to prevent spills. You need to know how to correctly transport, store, mix and apply, and dispose of agrichemicals, as well as how to properly respond to and manage an agrichemical spill.
There are several steps in responding to a spill, regardless of its size.
1. Raise the alarm: make sure others are aware of your intentions before engaging with the spill. Consider alerting emergency services or a neighbour if there is nobody available to provide assistance.
2. Consider your safety: do not enter a contaminated area - even if there are human casualties present - without first checking for hazards. For example:
- are the products toxic or flammable?
- are fumes likely to be present?
- will the floors be slippery?
- will there be mechanical or electrical hazards?
3. Identify the product(s) involved: If it is safe, get information about the products involved. For example:
- can you safely read the labels of the spilled products?
- can you see any warnings on flammability, toxicity, or ecotoxicity hazards?
- are the safety data sheets for the spilled product(s) easily available?
Until you know what you are dealing with, treat all spills as highly flammable and toxic.
4. Attend to human casualties: consider your safety as well as theirs. Do not enter a confined area unless you are sure there are no toxic fumes or vapours present.
5. Assess the spill: is it a major or minor spill?
- A major spill involves a substance with any of the following warning statements: 'EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE', 'HIGHLY FLAMMABLE', 'FATAL', 'TOXIC', 'OXIDISER', 'CORROSIVE'. Alert the Fire Service and, if necessary, evacuate the area. Fetch the safety data sheets to provide to the emergency services.
If the spill is likely to contaminate a waterway, ring your Regional Council's pollution hotline
- A minor spill is one involving less than 200 litres of any other agrichemical or fuel.
Make sure an appropriate person has been alerted to your plans. Respond to the spill (see below) and, if necessary, evacuate the area.
6. Respond to the spill. If it is safe, put on appropriate protective equipment and use the spill kit and spill containment equipment to contain the spill.
- Before you start, think about how the flammability and toxicity of the split material, the location of drains, the slope of the growth and closeness to waterways and other sensitive areas will impact on what you plan to do. Adjust your response accordingly.
- Follow the Three C's - Control, Contain, Clean up
- Control further release of the agrichemical (e.g. shut valves or taps, reposition leaking container)
- Contain further spread of the agrichemical (e.g. block the spill from spreading by encircling it using a dike of sand or soil, an absorbent material such as kitty litte, or a trench or rags. Cover dry (powder) spills with plastic or a tarp)
- Clean up and dispose of any absorbent material and agrichemical and clean the area. Sweep up powder or absorbent materials and place in a plastic bag or appropriate container for disposal. Follow Fire Service and local authority recommendations for clean-up. Information will also be available on safety data sheets.
7. Disposal. When the spill has been cleaned up, review safety data sheets for further advice on disposal.
8. Decontamination. Follow safety data sheet advice for site decontamination procedures.
- Everyone involved in a spill clean-up should wash down their protective equipment before removing it and then shower/wash themselves thoroughly.
9. Review. After any emergency you should discuss and review the emergency response plan with those involved and supervisors (if appropriate).
- Identify steps to prevent future incidents.
- Ensure any equipment used to deal with the spill is replace and required records are updated.