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Sample Instructions for Spill Clean Up

Sample Instructions for Spill Clean Up

Your written Emergency Procedures need to include instructions for what to do in case of a chemical spill.  The instructions need to be relevant for the kinds of chemicals at your location.

Hazardous materials covered by WHMIS have clean-up instructions on their MSDS. These should always be followed and if special equipment is required, it needs to be on hand in case of a spill.

For other consumer products, not covered by WHMIS, here are some general tips:

  • Cordon off the area and warn people that there has been a spill.
  • Check to see if there is an MSDS for the product. If there is, follow its directions.
  • Evacuate the area if it is flammable or toxic.
  • Ventilate the area if there are toxic fumes. Don’t attempt to clean up a spill that produces dangerous fumes until they have dissipated. Then use breathing protection.
  • Use PPE such as a face mask, gloves, and goggles.
  • Absorb the spill. Use paper towels, cat litter, or another suitable means.
  • Dispose of it appropriately, as “hazardous waste” if necessary.

If the spill is dangerous or large, or if you are not sure what to do, call 9-1-1.

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) information requirements

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) Information Requirements

Every material controlled by WHMIS must have a MSDS accompanying it. While the WHMIS label on a controlled product gives workers crucial information about its potential hazards, MSDSs give a lot more information.  For an example of what an MSDS should look like, click here.

There are 54 required items on MSDSs and they fall into nine basic categories. No part of the MSDS can be left blank and suppliers may include even more information. A detailed description of all 54 items is available in the WorkSafeBC publication WHMIS at Work.

The nine basic categories are:

1. Product Information: including the name of the product and its intended use. This section should also provide information on how to contact the manufacturer and supplier for more information.

2. Hazardous Ingredients: a list of the chemical ingredients , their percentages and their toxicity data.

3. Physical Data: general information on the product’s physical and chemical properties such as specific gravity, boiling point and evaporation rate.

4. Fire and Explosion Hazard: a list of the conditions under which the product may catch fire or explode and how to minimize these hazards.

5. Reactivity Data: information about the chemical stability of a product and the substances it could react with.

6. Toxicological Properties: information about how the product could enter the body and the possible health effects of single or multiple exposures. It also indicates if the product is known to have any long-term health effects like cancer, kidney damage, sensitization or reproductive effects.

7. Preventive Measures: information on required and recommended PPE as well as instructions for safely cleaning up spills and how to safely use, handle, store, dispose of and transport the product.

8. First Aid Measures: instructions for the immediate treatment of a worker who has inhaled or swallowed the product or who has had skin or eye contact with it.

9. Preparation Information: the date the MSDS was prepared and who prepared it.

MSDSs are intended to provide enough information for workers to be able to use products safely, but they don’t always necessarily include very detailed health information. A health and safety specialist, occupational health nurse or family doctor can help to find more information.

WHMIS Symbols

WHMIS Symbols

WHMIS uses a classification system to indicate specific hazards and properties of products. There are six main classes and some sub- classes. Each has a corresponding symbol that workers should be able to easily recognize.

Some materials may have more than one symbol. For example, propane is a compressed gas that burns easily so it would have two hazard symbols: one for compressed gas and one for flammable and combustible material.

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• Contents are under high pressure
• Cylinder may explode or burst when heated or dropped

Some examples are: compressed air, carbon dioxide, propane and welding gasses.
Because many gasses are compressed by being cooled, heat can cause the gas to expand and its container could explode. Dropping a cylinder of compressed gas may cause it to torpedo at high speed. Damaged cylinders may leak very cold gas that could cause frostbite on contact with skin (for example, carbon dioxide or propane).

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• May catch fire when exposed to heat, spark or flame.
• May burst into flames.

Some examples are propane, butane, kerosene, ethanol, toluene, and spray paints
“Flammable” means the material will burn or catch fire easily at “normal” temperatures (below 37.8 ◦ C or 100◦ F). Reactive flammable materials might suddenly start burning or produce flammable gas if they come into contact with air or water.
“Combustible” means the material will catch fire when heated above “normal”.

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• May cause fire or explosion when in contact with wood, fuels or other combustible materials.

Some examples are: oxygen and ozone in gaseous states, nitric acid, sodium chlorite.
Oxidizing materials do not usually burn themselves, but they can help a fire by producing oxygen to fuel it or they may cause other materials to suddenly catch on fire. In some cases, no other source of ignition, such as a spark or flame, is necessary. The organic peroxide family of gasses is especially hazardous as they are combustible themselves and produce oxygen to fuel the fire.

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Division 1: Materials Causing Immediate and Serious Toxic Effects

• Poisonous substance
• A single exposure may be fatal or cause serious or permanent health damage.

Some examples are: carbon monoxide, sodium cyanide, sulphuric acid, toluene-2
These materials are immediately dangerous to life and health. They may cause burns, loss of consciousness, coma and/or death within minutes or a few hours. Many materials in this class also have long- term health effects which may not be noticed for months or even years after exposure.


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Division 2: Materials Causing Other Toxic Effects

• Poisonous substance.
• May cause irritation.
• Repeated exposure may cause cancer, birth defects, or other permanent damage.

Some examples are: asbestos fibres, mercury, benzene, quartz silica (or “silica dust”), lead
These are poisonous materials and their effects are not always immediate or permanent. Some of them may have very serious long- term health consequences such as cancer, reproductive problems, genetic changes, or allergies.
Note: This division has two subclasses, D2A (very toxic) and D2B (toxic). Suppliers and employers may indicate these subclasses but it is not a legal requirement for the WHMIS label or the MSDS to include these designations.

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Division 3: Biohazardous Infectious MATERIAL

• May cause disease or serious illness.
• Drastic exposure may result in death.

Some examples are: AIDS/HIV virus, Hepatitis B and salmonella
These materials are organisms that may cause disease in people and animals either by themselves or through the toxins they produce. They may live in body tissues or fluids (such as blood or urine) so PPE should be used whenever workers could be in contact with body tissues or fluids. See the module Sharps and Biohazards for more information.

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• Can cause burns to eyes, skin or respiratory system.

Some examples are: sulphuric acid, nitric acid, caustic soda, ammonia gas, and nitrogen dioxide
Corrosive materials can cause severe burns to skin and other tissues such as the eyes and lungs and can eat away clothes and other materials including metal. Their effects are permanent.

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• May react violently causing explosion, fire or release of toxic gasses when exposed to light, heat, vibration or extreme temperatures.

Some examples are: ethylene oxide, ethyl acrylate, picric acid and anhydrous aluminum chloride.
Dangerously reactive materials are most often described as “unstable” and can do at least one of the following:

• It can react strongly and quickly with water to make a toxic gas
• It reacts with itself if it gets bumped or dropped or if its pressure or temperature increases
• It can join to itself (polymerization), break down (decompose) or lose extra water so that it becomes more dense (condensation).


WHMIS supplier label requirements

WHMIS Supplier Label Requirements

For a sample of what a WHMIS Supplier Label should look like, click here.  Supplier labels must include the following information:

1. Product Identifier: this is may be the chemical name of a product, its trade name, common name or code.

2. Supplier Identification: the name of the company that made, distributed or sold the product.

3. Hazard Symbol(s): one or more of the symbols that indicate the classification of the product.

4. Risk Phrases: descriptions of the specific hazards of the product. There should be at least one risk phrase for each hazard symbol.

5. Precautionary Measures: instructions for the essential precautions workers should take and the specific PPE they should use while handling the product.

6. First Aid Measures: What to do in case of an emergency such as ingestion, skin contact, inhalation etc.

7. Reference to MSDS: indication that an MSDS is available.

Only these seven items may be included on a WHMIS label. Any other information, such as instructions for using or applying the product, should be provided on separate labels.

Some supplier labels may look different and have less information if they are on small containers (less than 100ml), laboratory samples, or if they come from laboratory chemical suppliers.

For more information on the rules surrounding WHMIS labelling standards, such as restrictions on colours that may be used and guidance for labelling materials for transport, see the WorkSafeBC manual WHMIS Core Material

Injury Management Checklist

Injury Management Checklist

The following is an outline of the steps to take if a worker is injured. Use this as a checklist to ensure that everyone is able to fulfill their responsibilities in managing the situation.


Day 1

Provide immediate first aid if necessary.

Call 911 for serious injuries.

Accompany the worker to the hospital or doctor.

You have to be prepared to do this at company expense.

Provide the doctor with a job description of the worker’s position.

If you don’t have one prepared already, submit it as soon as possible – within a day or two. This should give the doctor a good idea of the kinds of tasks the person has to do at work. It will help the doctor make a decision about when it is safe for the worker to come back to their job.

Obtain an Occupational Fitness Assessment from the doctor.

If the doctor is unable to give this to you right away, request one in writing as soon as possible. Here is a sample fitness assessment.

Report the incident immediately if it is serious.

Serious incidents include fatalities, serious injuries, major damage to buildings, and major releases of hazardous substances. If you’re unsure whether or not an incident is serious, report it anyway.

Begin the Incident Investigation process.

Click here to view the process.

If possible, return the worker to their job.

Allow for modified or alternative duties if it will allow them to come back to work that same day. If it is an illness that typically takes some time to recover from, call the worker at home and let them know you are interested in their health and well being.

Give the worker a letter to take to their doctor.

The letter should outline your commitment to good injury management. Although you can send it to the doctor independently, it’s usually preferred if the worker can take it with them. See a sample letter for the doctor.


Days 2 - 3

Report the injury.

If you have not already done so, you must report any of the following situations within three business days:

  • A worker is injured and loses consciousness
  • A worker is sent for medical treatment by a first aid attendant or supervisor
  • A worker has a work-related injury or disease that needs medical treatment
  • A worker states that he or she is going to get medical treatment for an incident
  • A worker is (or claims to be) unable to do his or her work because of an injury or disease
  • An artificial limb, eyeglasses, dentures or hearing aid is broken in an incident

If you find out about the injury more than three days after it occurs, report it as soon as possible.

Initiate a claim, even if you do not know if the worker will need compensation.

Contact your provincial workers’ compensation agency for more information.

Contact the injured worker.

The supervisor or employer should do this within 24 hours. Ask co-workers of the injured person to contact the worker as appropriate. Let the person know they are valued.

Meet with the injured worker’s supervisor.

You'll want to meet with the injured worker's supervisor to begin to identify possible work opportunities and modified or alternative tasks to facilitate an early, safe return to the job.

Talk to the worker’s doctor if possible.

If the injury may require time away from work, let the doctor know you are willing to provide alternative or modified work if necessary while he or she recovers. If you haven’t already done so, send a letter to the doctor expressing your willingness to help in the recovery process.


By the End of Week 1

Make sure all the required forms have been submitted to your workers’ compensation agency.

If it looks like the worker will be away from work for some time:

  • Stay in touch with the worker.
    • Contact the worker at least every 2–3 days and keep written notes about your communication.
  • Consider asking a nurse advisor for help.
    • To reach one, contact your regional workers’ compensation office.


By the End of Week 1

Meet with the injured worker.

Call together the worker’s supervisor and the injured worker (on-site is best but this may have to take place off-site somewhere convenient for everyone). Together, discuss and develop a plan for returning to work as soon as possible. Include ideas for modifying the worker’s usual tasks and facilitating his or her safe return.

Write down the Return to Work (RTW) plan. Make sure that the plan:

  • Has a realistic goal and a timeline defining how the goal will be attained.
  • Is based on the doctor’s assessment of the worker’s ability to return to his or her job.
  • Is created with input from the injured worker.
  • Does not extend for longer than 8 weeks.

Have the RTW plan signed by both the worker and the supervisor.

Remind the worker that you value them, and that their safe and early return is the goal.


Week 3 and Beyond

Review the RTW plan weekly with the worker and his or her supervisor.

After 8 weeks, create a new RTW plan if necessary. Don’t plan for more than 8 weeks at a time.

Continue to communicate with the worker, the doctor and the supervisor.

Continue to modify work as necessary until the worker can return to their original job.

Review the Incident Investigation Report and follow up on the action plan to prevent the incident from happening again. Please see the module called Learning from the Unexpected for more information on reporting and investigating incidents.

Sample written safe work procedure

Sample Written Safe Work Procedures

Example 1: Closing Procedure for Staff Working Alone

Opening and closing times put staff at a higher risk of robbery and violence. Every effort will be made to have two people on at closing time, but if you have to close by yourself, follow these procedures carefully, and make sure to check in with your contact person at key points.

If you ever feel that you are in danger, call 9-1-1 right away.

  1. At 9 pm, lock the front door. Do not let anyone who is not staff into the store after closing.
  2. Flip the sign from“Open” to“Closed”.
  3. Assist any remaining customers and let them out the front door by unlocking it for them. Relock the door after each person.
  4. When all the customers are gone, double check that the door is locked. Look outside to make sure there are no suspicious people hanging around. If you see anyone suspicious, call the police and ask them to come check. Call your check-in contact to let them know what is happening.
  5. Call your contact person and talk with them on the phone while you do an inspection to make sure everyone is gone. Only do this step once you have the contact person on the phone. Check the bathroom and back room, double check that doors and windows are locked.
  6. Run the cash-out report, take the cash drawer out of the till, and put it all in the safe. Lock the safe. Don’t balance the cash – it will be done the next day when there are more staff around.
  7. Turn off the POS system.
  8. Put the garbage at the door. Don’t take the garbage to the dumpster. It will be done the next day when there are more staff working.
  9. Look out the door to make sure that it is safe for you to leave.
  10. Turn off the lights.
  11. Arm the alarm system.
  12. Exit the store and lock the door.
  13. Call your contact person and tell them you are on your way home.

For tips on getting home safely, see the instructions and advice in the Violence Prevention module.

Example 2: Using Box Cutters

Cuts from utility knives (box cutters) commonly result from:

  • Improper use of the blade (eg: prying a thumb tack, or cutting plastic containers)
  • Over-extending the blade
  • Improper storage (leaving the blade extended)
  • Improper blade break technique

Here are some simple general guidelines to follow to avoid cuts and unnecessary accidents.

Before you Start:

  • Make sure the blade tip is sharp. If not, extend the blade just enough to break off the dull section using the tool provided. Wear safety goggles when breaking.
  • Don’t push the blade against a hard surface in order to break off a dull blade. Parts can go flying and/or you can cut your hand.
  • Don’t extend the blade more than one inch. If you go much further, the blade can break off and hit your eye, hit a co-worker, or cause a slipping hazard.
  • Lock the blade before you start cutting.

While Cutting:

  • Pull, don't push: When cutting, pull the blade instead of pushing it. A pulling motion gives you more power and control, resulting in a safer cut.
  • If possible, cut on a flat horizontal surface.
  • Don't rush. Take your time.

After Use:

Always retract the blade for safety, then store it away for the next person to use.

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