Why Should I Have a Contractor Ready for Spill Response?

You must have comprehensive policies and procedures in place to prevent spillages from occurring but incidents can still happen and you must act swiftly to prevent or minimise environmental pollution.  Previous blogs have discussed why you should train an on-site spill response team (read more here) but this blog will cover larger spillages where you may need external assistance.

When should you get an external contractor?

Smaller spillages that can be fully contained and cleaned up with the spill response materials on site can be dealt with by your internal spill response team.  However, your team may not be able to deal with some types of spillages.  For example:

  • A large spillage that your staff and/or your spill response materials cannot deal with
  • You are unfamiliar with the spilled material and how to deal with it
  • The spillage has entered your drains or escaped site and may cause pollution.

What should your spill response team do?

Your internal spill response team must respond in the immediate aftermath of an incident and prioritise stopping and containing it.  This may involve the use of drain covers and absorbent socks, pillows and pads to keep it away from drains and unmade ground.

What information should you provide?

When appointing a contractor, you must provide them with as much information as possible to ensure they can deal with it effectively and minimise pollution.  You must inform them of:

  • What the material is and how much has been spilled. If possible, you should provide the COSHH and Material Safety Data Sheet
  • Where the material has spilled to. g. has it been fully contained in the yard area or has it escaped to nearby drains?  If it has got into drains, has it been collected in an interceptor?  If you have a drainage plan, you should provide it
  • What you have done so far.

What will your contractor do?

Your contractor should respond quickly to an incident and assess what should be done.  The spillage should be fully cleaned up and decontaminated if required.  All drains and interceptors should be inspected for contamination and inspections may be required off site to determine if pollution has escaped.  Your contractor should provide a summary of what they have done and any further actions required.  If the spilled material has escaped, you may need to inform the Environment Agency and carry out remediation works.  Any waste should be dealt with according to legal requirements and you should get copies of waste documentation.

Swift, effective and informed spill response is essential to reduce the impacts of an incident.  A specialist contractor may be required if you have a large or complex spill and expert response can help to prevent or minimise pollution.  If you cause pollution, you may be liable for prosecution, fines and the cost of remediation; by demonstrating you have done as much as possible to prevent pollution (including prevention and response), you may reduce the consequences.