Chemical Spills Training Guide

| |
Labor Occupational Health Program

Summary Statement

Training on handling of hazardous chemical spills, including emergency action plans and hazardous materials business plans – includes questions for discussion and a sign-off form. Part of a collection. Click on the 'collection' button to access the other items.

These tailgate/toolbox talks were developed for use under California OSHA regulations. The complete set is available from the Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley. For ordering information, visit the website ( The American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has adapted these talks to apply to federal OSHA regulations. To contact ACGIH, visit its web site (

    Before you begin the meeting...

  • Does this topic relate to the work the crew is doing? If not, choose another topic.
  • Has the crew completed basic Hazard Communication training? It will help them understand this topic.

  • Did you read this Training Guide and fill in the blanks where thePencil Icon appears? (To find the information you need, look over the Safety Walkaround Checklist for this topic.)
  • Did you bring labeled containers and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for a few of the adhesive and resin products used on the site?

Begin: You’ve all seen the news stories. Recently in Richmond, California, a chemical spill from a railcar sent a toxic cloud over the whole community. And many of us remember what happened in 1984 in Bhopal, India, where a leak from a chemical plant killed 2,500 people and injured over 100,000.

Chemical spills, leaks, and explosions are all too common on construction sites. Of course, our first priority is to prevent emergencies like this. But if they do happen, we need to know how to respond. Following state and local requirements, management has drawn up emergency plans for this site. At today’s meeting, we’ll look at what those plans say.

You or a crew member may want to add a personal story about chemical spills, leaks, or explosions.

Continue: On sites with a significant amount of hazardous chemicals, we are required to have a Hazardous Materials Business Plan. Even a 55 gallon drum of a liquid hazardous chemical is considered a “significant amount.”

These plans are different in different communities (depending on local agency regulations). However, most of them contain similar types of information.

Pencil Icon On this site, we: ___do ___do not have a Hazardous Materials Business Plan.

(If applicable:) Show the crew the copy of the plan that you brought to the meeting.

You can see a copy of our plan anytime at-

Pencil Icon Point out location:_________________________________

Pencil Icon

On this site, we have these hazardous chemicals at these locations-

(If applicable:) Give chemical names and locations:_______




After each question, give the crew time to suggest possible answers. Use the information following each question to add points that no one mentions.

1. We’re also required by Cal/OSHA to have an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for the site. It describes the procedures we should follow if there’s any type of emergency— whom to notify, who’s in charge, who should do what, and how to evacuate. Everyone on the site needs to be trained on our EAP. Has everyone here been trained?

  • If not, see me after this meeting.
Pencil Icon

On this site, we: ___do ___do not have an EAP.

(If applicable:) Show the crew the copy of the EAP that you brought to the meeting.

Pencil Icon You can see a copy of our EAP anytime at-

Point out location:

2. What should you do if there is a chemical spill?

  • Follow the procedures spelled out in the site’s Emergency Action Plan. On most sites, the EAP will list steps similar to these:

    • Notify your supervisor.
    • Notify coworkers and others in the area.
    • Activate emergency alarms.
    • Call 911 (or other emergency phone number) to get help.
    • Don’t try to rescue or help injured people unless you’re sure you will be safe.
    • 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. In general, evacuate upwind, not downwind.

  • Don’t try to clean up a spill yourself except where permitted by site rules and the EAP. Leave the cleanup to trained personnel, such as a Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) team.

On the job, emergency phone numbers (fire, police, medical, HAZMAT) are posted-

Pencil Icon Point out locations:__________________________________

3. How can you tell if a spill is hazardous or requires special cleanup procedures?

  • Identify the chemical(s) involved in the spill.

  • Use Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for the chemicals involved to find out the effects of exposure, what protective equipment is needed, and spill cleanup procedures. Since some chemical spills can lead to fires or explosions, the MSDS may also give you firefighting instructions. The law requires the site to have MSDSs for all chemical products in use. Everyone working on the site has a right to see MSDSs.
Pencil Icon On this job, you can get MSDSs from-

Give the name and location of the person to see:_________

(MSDSs are covered in more detail during basic Hazard Communication training, which everyone on the crew should already have completed.)

4. What emergency equipment do we have on this job, and where?

  • First aid kits
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Fire blankets
  • Eye washes
  • Emergency showers
  • Communications (radios, alarms, etc.)
  • Stretchers or baskets for moving injured people
  • Confined space rescue equipment

  • Pencil Icon

    For each item above, explain what types are available on the site and their locations:



    Explain: Most of the safety measures we’ve talked about are required by Cal/OSHA or by other state and local agencies. We have to take these precautions—it’s the law. I have a Checklist of the various regulations related to chemical spills. If you’d like to know more, see me after the meeting.

    (Only if applicable.) We have some additional company rules about chemical spills.

    Pencil Icon

    Discuss company rules:_______________________________



    Ask: Do you have any other concerns about chemical spills? Do you see any problems on our job? (Let the steward answer first, if there is one.)

    What about other jobs you’ve worked on? Have you had any experience with chemical spills that might help us work safer on this job?


    This is a time to discuss all safety concerns, not just today's topic. Keep your notes on this page before, during and after the safety meeting.

    Are you aware of any hazards from other crews? Point out any hazards other crews are creating that this crew should know about. Tell the crew what you intend to do about those hazards.





    Do we have any old business? Discuss past issues/problems. Report progress of investigations and action taken.




    Any new business? Any accidents/near misses/complaints? Discuss accidents, near misses, and complaints that have happened since the last safety meting. Also recognize the safety contributions made by members of the crew.





    Please remember, we want to hear from you about any health and safety issues that come up. If we don't know about problems, we can't take action to fix them.

    To complete the training session:

    • Circulate Sign-Off Form.
    • Assign one or more crew member(s) to help with next safety meeting.
    • Refer action items for follow-up. (Use the sample Hazard Report Form in the Reference Section of this binder, or your company’s own form.)

    Sign Off Form

    Date Prepared:_________________________ By:______________________
    Project Name/No.______________________ Location:__________________
    Printed Name