Different agrochemicals are common on farms and ranches. Proper use of these chemicals can help ease some of the tasks of your operation. Unfortunately, accidents happen, and chemical spills can cause serious problems. The first step in knowing how to handle a chemical spill is to know what you need to do to prevent them.

 Chemical Safety on Farms: Tips for Spill Prevention

  • If it’s your first time using a chemical, or if it’s been a while, always read the labels for important information on proper use, handling and actions in case of spills.
  • Use the original containers to store and transport chemicals.
  • Make sure valves are closed, hoses are empty, and pumps are turned off after you use application equipment.
  • Clean equipment frequently, especially before switching to a new chemical or mix.
  • Keep a record of equipment inspections and repairs to make sure you are doing them routinely.

Building a Chemical Spill Response Plan

Prepare for a spill before it even happens. It may seem like a lot work up front, but you’ll be glad you have a plan in place if anything does happen. Make sure your plan includes:

  • Emergency phone numbers — including your state’s agrochemical hotline.
  • A complete list of chemical products you have on your farm or ranch and a list of protective equipment.
  • A copy of the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all the chemicals you use.
  • An evacuation plan for the room or building that houses the chemicals.
  • Instructions for containing and cleaning up spills.

How to Respond to a Chemical Spill

If you have a spill, do not forget to report your spill to your state agriculture or environmental agency. Follow the 3 C’s: Caution, Control/Contain, and Clean Up.

Caution: Personal Safety

  • Avoid exposing yourself to chemicals and avoid situations where you may become trapped.
  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), like rubber gloves, boots, long sleeves, and pants.
  • Approach the spill from upwind or upstream if applicable.
  • If the spill is having a reaction (hissing, bubbling, smoking, burning, etc.) evacuate the area immediately and call 911.
  • If anyone has been in contact with the chemical, wash the contact area under running water for at least 15 minutes.
  • If anyone has become incapacitated, call 911.

Control the Source, Contain the Spill

  • If you are safely able to stop the spill, do so immediately.
  • Keep the spill from spreading by using absorbent material, sandbags or by digging a trench to catch and contain the fluid.
  • If it is a large spill and too big for one person to control and clean up, call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Evacuate the area; set up barriers to mark the space and keep people and animals out.
  • Make sure someone stays at the spill site until it is cleaned up.

Chemical Spill Clean Up Procedures

Some chemicals may require special handling. Make sure to always check the product label for more information.

General Spills

  • Spread an absorbent material like fine sand, vermiculite, clay, or pet litter on the spill area.
  • Avoid using sawdust since strong oxidizing chemicals can combust and be a fire hazard.
  • Sweep and scoop up all material; work from the outside toward the inside to help reduce spread.
  • Scoop material into a steel or fiber drum lined with a heavy-duty garbage bag.
  • Seal the bag and double bag it. Make sure to label and dispose of it properly.

Spills on Soil

  • Apply activated charcoal for minor spills.
  • For larger spills, you’ll need to remove the top 2-3 inches of soil and then cover the area with at least 2 inches of lime and fresh topsoil.

Having a chemical spill on your farm or ranch can be a scary thought. Being prepared can help you quickly and efficiently respond in an emergency. Contact your local Farm Bureau agent to see how else you can prepare.