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How to Handle Chemical Spills, Leaks and Explosion

Storing or handling chemicals in the workplace puts all employees at serious risk for injuries due to explosions. For this reason, worksites where hazardous chemicals are used should have an emergency action plan (EAP). Employee safety in the workplace should be top priority.

This plan describes the procedures for employees to follow during an emergency, such as a chemical spill, leak or explosion, including:

  • Who to notify
  • Who is in charge and who else has responsibilities in responding to the incident
  • Who is responsible for each task
  • How to evacuate the site

All employees should be trained on EAP procedures so that everyone is prepared in the event of an emergency. Employees should notify you if they have not yet had training on EAP procedures or if they would like a refresher.


The first priority when working with chemicals is to prevent a spill, leak or explosion. Employees can contribute to that goal by:

  • Knowing and understanding the chemicals they’re working with, including any hazards
  • Referring to the appropriate Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or ask questions if they are unsure of any hazards
  • Following all safety precautions and protocols
  • Helping to make sure all chemicals are properly labelled in their containers

When an Incident Occurs

To determine if a chemical spill, leak or explosion is hazardous or requires special clean-up procedures, employees should:

  • Identify the chemical(s) involved
  • Refer to the SDS for any chemical involved to find out how flammable and/or reactive it is, what protective equipment is needed and spill clean-up procedures
  • For chemicals resulting in a hazardous fire or explosion, refer to the SDS for firefighting instructions

Emergency Procedures

In the event of a chemical spill, leak or explosion, employees should:

  • Immediately notify their supervisor
  • Notify other workers in the area
  • Activate emergency alarms
  • Call 911
  • Keep people out of the area
  • Leave the area if the spill cannot be readily contained or if it presents an immediate danger to life or health
  • Follow the evacuation rules in the EAP
  • Evacuate upwind, not downwind
  • Leave clean-up to trained personnel, such as a Hazardous Materials team

Employees Should Not

  • Try to rescue or help injured people unless they are sure they will be safe
  • Try to clean up a spill themselves, except where permitted or required by site rules and the EAP