Even in small amounts, spills and leaks of hazardous chemicals and hazardous materials can potentially be very dangerous. They can cause fires or explosions; contaminate water; and harm plants, animals, and humans. OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have very strict spill prevention rules and detailed requirements for handling spills and leaks when they occur.
Spills should be cleaned up only by employees who have been trained to do so. But every employee should understand the potential hazards and how they can help by responding properly. There is no specific training requirement for general employee response to the accidental spill or leak of a potentially hazardous chemical. However, there are specific training requirements for workers who:
- Handle certain specified hazardous substances (such as formaldehyde, benzene, etc.) (29 CFR 1910, Subpart Z)
- Work with chemicals considered "highly hazardous" (Subpart H)
- Are part of an emergency response team responsible for cleaning up spills and leaks (29CFR 1910.120 (q) (6))
- As first responders who are likely to witness or discover a hazardous materials release you must have sufficient training or experience to competently handle a variety of areas, such as identification, knowledge or risks, and notification procedures (29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6))