Having the right equipment and staff trained to respond to a spill is fundamental to having a site spill response plan that will deliver in the event of an incident. Whether you already have a site response plan in place or you are about to start the process its worth going back to basics to ensure you understand your site as a whole.Spill response


  • The answers to the following questions will help you understand what you are dealing with:
  • What liquids are on site?
  • Where on site are the liquids stored?
  • What are the liquids stored in (drums, IBC or bulk)?
  • What quantities of each type of liquid are held on site?
  • How are the liquids handled & distributed around the site?
  • Are there any work related activities that could increase the risk of a spill?
  • Do any of the identified risk areas link to each other?
  • If you have spills of incompatible liquids can they combine to create a new issue?
  • Do you have a detailed site drain map?
  • Are all the drains on site clearly colour coded as either foul or surface water?
  • Do you have a site interceptor & if yes how often is it cleaned out?
  • Do you have a consent to discharge licence?
  • Do you have an inventory of all the spill response products on site?
  • Do you have a site map showing the locations of your spill response equipment?
  • Do you have historical data on any previous spills on site?

Understanding what liquids you have on site determines the type of spill kit required:

Oil Selective – absorbs hydrocarbons but repels water.

Maintenance – absorbs water, hydrocarbons, cutting fluids, coolant & mild solvents.

Chemical – absorbs water, hydrocarbons, cutting fluids, coolant, mild solvents, acids & alkalis.

Understanding the quantities of liquid you have on site and how they are stored helps you select the right size(s) and type of spill kit.

Drums and IBC

Understanding potential spill path(s) any spilt liquid will take and whether your site is fully contained will allow you to determine what additional spill response equipment you will require

  • Drum sealing devices such as putty, wooden dowels or sealing straps
  • Temporary drain covers (disposable or reusable)
  • Secondary containment system such as bunded stores
  • Non absorbing barriers to divert/contain liquid in a controlled manner
  • Drain sealing devices
  • Floating barrier/containment devices


Training of staff in the correct and safe use of spill response equipment is fundamental to a successful spill response plan so we recommend that you only work with a company that has independent accreditation. First responders to liquid spills course

Whoever you choose you should expect that prior to undertaking any training they ask to fully assess your facility so they can understand the operations and hazards specific to your site and provide you with a detailed report that will also form the backbone of the training package.

The training course should be in depth and include a mixture of classroom and hands on practical experience.


You should expect a typical course to include:
Explanation & definition of sorbent products
Explanation of the features, properties and uses of the different types of sorbents
Key elements of spill response
Initial actions in the event of a spill
Safety of personnel
Environmental protection
Using spill response products
Best available techniques
Response to spills indoors
Response to spill outdoors
Response to spill on water
Typical spill scenarios for your site
Containment techniques
Use of sorbent products
Importance of minimising response times whilst still remaining safe
Incident reporting
Spill simulation
Recovery of used sorbents
Residual dangers of absorbed liquids during clean-up
Proper disposal procedures and labelling of used products

Remember to consider questions such as whether the kit needs to be mobile, or ease of access to the spill area.

Kits should be located in the spill area and remote from it allowing you to cover all eventualities.

A common mistake is to over specify the size of kit, it only needs to be appropriate to the spill potential and your response plan should make provision to utilise kits from other areas in the event of a major incident.

As a rule most sorbents do not neutralise, they take on the characteristics of the liquid absorbed.


Oil Selective (Hydrophobic) – Repels water and only absorbs oils/hydrocarbons

Colour identifier: White or Blue

Maintenance & Chemical (Hydrophilic) – Attracted to water, absorbs most liquids including water, oils/hydrocarbons, cutting fluids, acids & alkalis
Colour identifier: Grey or Yellow

BS 7959 colour coding of absorbents:

White or Blue – Oil Selective


It’s also important for spill responders to have an understanding of the legislation involved including:

Individuals’ responsibilities
Corporate responsibilities
Penalties for negligence
The role of the Environment Agency, SEPA and the NIEA
The Oil Care Campaign

For England and Wales:

The Water Industries Act 1991
The Water Resources Act 1991
The Control of Pollution, (Oil Storage), (England), Regulations 2001
The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010
Environmental Damage (Prevention & Remediation) Regulations 2009
Environmental Damage (Prevention & Remediation) (Wales) Regulations 2009

For Scotland:

The Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003
The Water Environment, (Oil Storage), (Scotland), Regulations 2006
Environmental Liability (Scotland) Regulations 2009
The Water Environment, (Controlled Activities), (Scotland), Regulations 2011
For Northern Ireland:

Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999
The Groundwater Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009
Environmental Liability (Prevention & Remediation) Regulations (N.I) 2009
The Control of Pollution, (Oil Storage), (Northern Ireland), Regulations 2010
The Control of Pollution, (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil Storage), (Northern Ireland), Regulations 2003


If you would like a review of your current site spill response plan or a free, without onus and completely confidential site survey to aid you with creating a new plan please contact us on 01506 430309 or email and one of our experienced managers will be happy to arrange things with you.

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