Chemical Spill Procedures

Definition of a Spill from the Ministry of the Environment (MOE)’s Environmental Protection Act, 1990. (

“Spill”, when used with reference to a pollutant, means a discharge,

    1. into the natural environment,
    2. from or out of a structure, vehicle or other container, and
    3. that is abnormal in quality or quantity in light of all the circumstances of the discharge,

and when used as a verb has a corresponding meaning; (“déversement”, “déverser”)

Therefore a spill can be a discharge of anything from a container or building which enters the natural environment (Air, Water & Land). The following are examples:

  • Spill of gasoline in parking area
  • Broken bottle of chemicals in Lab
  • Freon leak from chiller
  • Leaking storage tank
  • Excessive fumes in a lab being vented through a fume hood

Some of these need to be reported to the MOE Spill Action Center and some don’t so report all Spills to the Environmental Protection Services at 416.978.7000 so we can document it and report to the MOE if necessary.

Major Chemical Spill

  1. Evacuate immediate area. Call Environmental Protection Services at: 416.978.7000 (8:00-4:00, Weekdays)
    After hours call Campus Safety:
    416.978.2222-St. George Campus
    416.978.2222-Scarborough Campus
    905.569.4333-Mississauga Campus Then,
  2. State your name, location, chemical(s) involved, and the amount spilled.
  3. Attend to any persons who may have been contaminated. Consult the Safety Data Sheet for first aid information. Refer to “Chemical Spills on Body” for further information.
  4. Wait in a safe area for the response team. Your knowledge of the area will assist the team.
  5. Do not allow unauthorized personnel to enter the contaminated area.
  6. Report the incident to your supervisor and the Office of Environmental Health & Safety and to the local joint health and safety committee. Use the Accident/Incident Report form.

Minor Chemical Spill Indoors

  1. Stop – Think! Do not rush. Carefully plan cleanup. Get material safety data sheet and determine appropriate cleanup procedures for the material.  The effects of a spill can be minimized with proper planning. The size, as well as the resultant hazard from a spill, will partially determine the extent of the required precautions. Planning for emergencies such as spills must be an integral part of preperation for all experimental work.
  2. Decide if you can safely handle this spill; If unsure, call 416.978.7000 for assistance.
  3. If malorourous/hazardous vapours are generated from the chemical spill which can be spread outside the local area contact: Environmental Protection Services 416.978.7000 and St. George Campus: Facilities and Services Maintenance 416.978.3000
    Mississauga Campus: 905.828.5301
    Scarborough Campus: 416.287.7588
  4. Eliminate all ignition sources if flammable material is involved.
  5. Turn on fume hoods to capture or direct flow of vapours.
  6. Confine the spill to a small area. Do not allow the material to spread. Dike, block or contain the size of spread of liquid spill by using appropriate absorbing material (vermiculite, commercial absorbent, etc.).Should a particular chemical be used extensively in a laboratory, a spill kit is recommended. Appropriate protective equipment and cleanup materials (e.g. neutralizers, absorbent, etc.) must be used. Commercial spill kits are available that contain instructions, cleanup materials and protective equipment required to safely and effectively decontaminate a minor chemical spill.
  7. Carefully remove other materials, containers, equipment from path of the spill.
  8. Sweep solids of low toxicity into a dust pan and place into container for disposal.
  9. Dispose of all cleanup materials as hazardous waste. Waste must be properly packaged in a leak-proof container, sealed and labelled with a hazardous waste label. Call Environmental Protection Services at 416.946.3473 for disposal.
  10. After removal of spilled material, if the chemical is soluble in water, the area should be washed with warm, soapy water to remove any remaining residue.
  11. Report the incident to supervisor and Environmental Health & Safety and to the local joint health and safety committee. Use the Accident/Incident Report form.

Chemical Spill Outdoors

  1. Contain spill rapidly by diking with suitable material (kitty litter, vermiculite, etc.). Attempt to prevent chemical from contaminating ground water and sewer system. Cover opening to sewer if able to do so.
  2. Immediately call Environmental Protection Services at 416.978.7000 (8:00-4:00 Weekdays)
    After hours call Campus Safety:
    416.978.2222 – St. George Campus
    416.978.2222 – Scarborough Campus

    905.569.4333 – Mississauga Campus
  3. Do not leave spill site unattended. Wait until assistance arrives.
  4. Report the incident to supervisor and to Environmental Health & Safety by filling out the Accident/Incident Report form.