Hazardous substances spills

When potentially harmful or dangerous chemicals are spilled, work quickly to protect yourself and others.

Major spills

The definition of major spill depends on the nature of the chemical spilt and the spill kit capacity available. In areas such as Chemistry spills over 5-10 litres solvent would be considered a major spill. In other departments where there are less resources available, threshold volumes would be considerably smaller.


In the event of a major spill involving a hazardous substance where safety of personnel is at risk:

  • Evacuate the immediate area
  • Call for assistance from capable personnel. (For example Chemical Owner, Lab Managers, technical staff)
  • Identify the substance. through the use of signs, labels or SciTrack barcode. Retrieve the safety data sheet (available via Gold FFX) and note the safety requirements
  • Extinguish any ignition sources if the chemical is flammable and it is safe to do so
  • Where available, activate the emergency shutdown button and/or spill button
  • Only where there is no risk to personnel, contain any further spill (seal off container, drop absorbent material on spill, and/or put barriers around the perimeter and over drains)If the spill can't be safely contained and it affects people or the environment, call Fire and Emergency NZ on 111 and state the following: 
    • Name of the caller
    • Exact location of spill
    • Substance involved in spill
    • Quantity of spilled material
    • Size of spill in square metres
  • Assign a person—preferably the Laboratory Manager—to meet the Fire Service and inform the building warden
  • Evacuate the building if required
  • Comply with Fire and Emergency NZ instructions

There should be at least one large spill kit per floor.

Minor spills

In the event of a spill which can be contained and cleaned up with little risk to personnel:

  • Ensure immediate area is cleared, and any ignition sources extinguished if the spilled chemical is flammable
  • Call for assistance
  • Identify the substance e.g. through the use of signs, labels or safety data sheets via the SciTrack and note any safety requirements
  • Wear appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment
  • If safe to do so, stop the source (e.g., plug the leak, shut off valves, put solvent containers into flammables cabinets)
  • If the chemical is corrosive, consider neutralising it or use a spill kit designed for that particular class of chemical
  • Use disposable cleaning equipment or spill kit
  • Contain the spill to protect the environment. Use drip trays and absorbent material in spill kit to stop the spread and block off access to drains
  • Wipe spill toward the centre and use damp cloths to pick up broken glass
  • Notify the Lab Manager/supervisor

Staff: Clean-up/post-event actions

  • Ensure personal wellbeing
  • Decontaminate yourself and others, including clothing
  • Monitor for after-effects
  • Administer/obtain medical care
  • Submit an incident report

Dispose of contaminated materials

  • Seal in plastic bags or containers all items used from spill kits and any other contaminated products. Take the bags/containers to an authorised disposals point complete with a hazardous waste declaration that identifies the materials
  • Contact an authorised waste contractor to remove the waste
  • Restock and review
  • Re-stock spill kit
  • Assess reasons for incident and implement corrective response as soon as practicable
  • If the Fire and Emergency NZ  was called, retain a copy of the fire crew’s incident report

Ensure personal wellbeing

  • Decontaminate yourself and others, including clothing.
  • Monitor for after-effects.
  • Administer/obtain medical care

Document Control
Version: 1.1
Last Updated: May 2024
Next Review: May 2027
Owner: hsw@auckland.ac.nz
Approver: Associate Director, Health Safety & Wellbeing