Not every spill will rise to the level of an emergency as defined by OSHA, but metalworking and manufacturing plants should still provide spill kits to protect workers from hazardous chemical exposure. Here’s what OSHA-compliant spill kits include, along with some tips on how to customize them for your business needs.

Most safety chiefs will tell you that they hope they never have to use their spill kits. That said, OSHA requires that companies do more than buy a couple of kits and tuck them on a shelf. Here’s what you need to know when selecting OSHA-compliant hazmat spill kits.

If you use hazardous chemicals or materials in your facility, then there are three simple rules. You need spill kits—possibly several. You need the right items for the chemicals in your shop. And you need to comply with the government’s regulations for containing and cleaning up spills.

“You may be asking yourself if your job site even needs to meet OSHA regulations for hazardous materials,” writes Dan Ketchum for “If the site contains any material that requires a safety data sheet (SDS) or, really, any liquid that is capable of harming a person or the environment, the answer is a short and resounding yes.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard that applies is 1910.120, Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER).

There are four spill kits for which OSHA provides guidance—and we’ll detail what each must include. But first, you’ll want to evaluate a couple of other key items in your facility that will help you select and customize your kits.

4 Critical Factors Before Choosing a Spill Kit

1. Are you meeting OSHA Hazard Communication requirements for your shop floor?

You need to be sure that you’re labeling chemicals and providing proper signage. That will help avoid a spill by making your workers cautious, but HazCom best practices also help manage a spill after it happens by providing the response team with information it will need for cleanup.

2. How big is your facility?

The breadth of the shop floor will help you determine how many kits you should have on hand. The nearer the kit to the locations where chemicals or other hazardous materials are regularly used, the quicker you can stop the spread of a spill.

As each kit’s contents typically are one-time use only, you’ll need at least two kits, Ketchum advises.

3. What volumes of chemicals are on-site?

That information is critical. It lets you identify the capacity and size of the absorbent you will want to stock.

It’s also likely one of the ways you may choose to beef up your spill kit to meet your facility’s specific needs.

4. Who will be on your response team? Have they completed HAZWOPER training?

You will need to select and train a team to respond to any spill defined as an “emergency” in the standard. HAZWOPER requires certifications for team members who respond to emergency spills—up to 40 hours of initial training and an annual training refresher.

You might choose to have these team members be your spill responders even if an accident is incidental and you have detailed your plans in your hazard communications.

Incidental Spill Kits Vs. Emergency Spill Kits

In OSHA parlance, two characteristics define incidental spills: “limited in quantity and posing no significant safety or health hazard to workers in the immediate area.”

The agency uses the example of a pint bottle of xylene in its HAZWOPER guidance for general business.

“Incidental spills are the most-common type of spills facilities face,” points out Karen D. Hamel, a regulatory compliance trainer with New Pig, in EHS Today. “An incidental spill does not pose a substantial hazard to the worker or workers cleaning it up.”

An emergency spill requiring compliance with HAZWOPER, the use of specified kits, as well as containment and cleanup procedures by trained teams, involves the “uncontrolled release of a hazardous substance.”

Now, let’s look at the types of kits metalworking plants might need and what the four OSHA-compliant kits must contain.

Universal Spill Kits: The Swiss Army Knife of Chemical Spill Protection

Like the name implies, universal kits can handle a range of cleanups—whether oil- or water-based.

Required components:

Battery Acid Spill Kit: Gear for Battling Toxic Corrosives

If your plant relies on large batteries to run any equipment, you will want to have battery acid spill kits to manage dangerous corrosive acid leaks or spills.

Required components:

  • Nitrile safety gloves
  • Eye goggles
  • Poly aprons
  • Shoe or boot covers
  • Polymers to neutralize acid
  • Specialized scoops
  • Disposal containers
  • Spill containment handbook

Mercury Spill Kits: Tools to Handle This Highly Toxic Chemical Element

While mercury might be a rare concern for some plants, breathing in the vapor can be deadly. If the risk of exposure exists in your plant, you need a special kit.

Required components:

  • Nitrile safety gloves
  • Eye goggles
  • Shoe or boot covers
  • Sorbents and absorbent pads
  • Chemical sponges
  • Amalgamation powder
  • Indicator powder
  • Vapor suppressor bottles
  • Aspirator bottles
  • Disposal bags or mercury vacuum
  • Spill containment handbook

Feeling uneasy about your chemical handling? Read “Best Practices for Managing Chemical Safety.”

Tips for Biohazard Spill Kits: Items for Bodily Fluid Cleanups

Metalworking and manufacturing plants are not medical facilities. Even so, the chance of an injury involving bloodborne pathogens or other bodily fluids does exist. Because of that, manufacturing plants might want to stock biohazard spill kits.

Required components:

  • Nitrile safety gloves
  • Neoprene gloves with long sleeves
  • Eye goggles
  • Shoe or boot covers
  • Sorbents and absorbent pads
  • Biohazard sorbents such as pillows and mats
  • Disposal bags or bins
  • Sanitizing surface wipes
  • Sanitizing hand wipes
  • Spill containment handbook

Find everything you’ll need for spill control and containment safety.

The Value of HazCom Training

Whatever kit types your plant must have available, Hamel recommends making all workers aware of the chemicals in use and keeping them informed when anything changes involving the use of hazardous materials.

HazCom awareness training and straightforward safety policies should help workers quickly determine whether a spill is incidental or whether it requires an emergency response, she notes in her EHS Today article. That approach can help avoid costly downtime while maintaining safety best practices.

“Increasing workers’ knowledge of the chemical hazards that they face every day and providing clear direction on how and when to clean up incidental spills will enable workers to make incidental response part of their daily routines,” Hamel says.

Need to perform HAZWOPER training? Look no further. MSC now offers instant compliance training quotes for the Center for Safety and Environmental Management.


Also check out MSC's Safety Guide Book for Spill Containment Solutions.

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I am the Director of OPS for the Chabot Space & Science Center, NASA Ames Visitor Center located at 10000 Skyline Blvd, Oakland, CA., 94619.  We have a 300 gallon Above Ground Diesel Tank located in our Pumphouse several hundred feet from our main building.  Are there any local Spill Kit classes that you can suggest?  Thanks for your time.  


Hi Michael,

I’m the Regional Safety Consultant with MSC for the West.  We can definitely help with training classes. How many people would be attending? Please email me so we can discuss options. My email is  Thanks. 


What is the law on how much are worker allowed to clean up before calling 911. Like sulifatic acid, liquid sulfate, and soduim hydrogen.  


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