Spill Prevention, Response, and Reporting Tips

Every day, Postal Service™ employees safely and responsibly work with hazardous materials such as oils, fuels, cleaning products, inks, and painting supplies. Some employees even handle and transport packages that may contain hazardous materials. Despite our best efforts, hazardous material spills can happen at any time. When it happens, the hazards can quickly escalate inside a facility and pose an even greater risk to the environment.

If you work with chemicals in the workplace, you must do everything possible to prevent spills from happening and know how to respond when a spill occurs. Your safety is the primary concern when a spill occurs. You also need to know what constitutes a “release to the environment” when determining the appropriate steps to take to comply with the environmental regulations for each situation.

What Does Spill Prevention Mean to the Postal Service?

Do you know what to do if you witness a spill? While safety should be your first concern, you also must know what to do in the event that a spill or release poses a threat to the environment. Spills can pose a threat to humans and the environment, especially if they are not managed properly. They can also threaten the ecology and economy of our communities and even shut down Postal Service operations. Environmental spills can be costly, requiring significant time, money, and resources to contain, control, and clean up.

What Can You Do?

Follow Postal Service procedures on the Office of Sustainability website for handling spills and releases. Even a small incidental spill that poses very little risk requires internal notifications, training, chemical safety information, personal protective equipment, safe work practices, and proper disposal. Chemical releases require a detailed assessment by trained facility personnel to determine if they can be handled safely or if emergency response services are needed. Examples include leaking storage tanks, containers or transformers, a vehicle accident or malfunction that creates a leak, or a leak or spill that enters a floor drain or storm drain.

Note: Any spills beyond your control demand swift evaluation to ensure the appropriate professional responders are contacted. Such incidents will always require reporting and may even call for building evacuation.

What Should Employees Know?

Spill prevention is the best medicine. If you work with chemicals in the workplace, take an active role in spill prevention including:

n Practice Spill Prevention. Identify areas where spills can occur, including drainage points, and implement procedures to prevent them.

n Verify Spill Response Procedures. Review the adequacy of spill response procedures and the spill kit used for clean-ups.

n Train Employees Who Accept Hazardous Materials. Make sure that only authorized and trained employees accept hazardous materials deliveries.

n Be Prompt with Notices. Be on the lookout for small leaks before they become big problems. Notify your supervisor when a spill or release has occurred. Your supervisor will then report “releases to the environment”, using PS Form No. 8187, Hazardous and Regulated Substance Release Notification.

n Keep Out of Harm’s Way. Under no circumstance should you do anything that could put yourself at risk or in harm’s way.

n Collect Details on Spill Events. If you are reporting a spill, you must be specific about the incident. Report where the material spilled, how much, what or who may be affected, when it was detected, and the cause, as well as those contacted, etc.

n Report Spill Data Properly. Reporting must be done in accordance with regulatory timetables. When in doubt, contact the Office of Sustainability for guidance.

n Oil Sheens Require Immediate Reports. If you see a spill to a waterway, including oil spills that cause a “sheen” upon, or discoloration of water, the EPA requires immediate notification.

n Contact the Fire Department for Risky Releases. When in doubt about the risks posed by a spill, contact your local Fire Department.

n When in Doubt, Report It. Failure to notify the appropriate authorities of spills or releases to the environment that exceed regulatory thresholds is a violation. When you’re in doubt about whether a spill is reportable, report it!

Where Can You Find Additional Information?

n For information on Oil Spills and Hazardous Substance Releases spill reporting, visit the USEPA Emergency Management site at: Note: State agencies often have their own notification timetables.

n For more information on Postal Service spill reporting and response procedures, visit the USPS Sustainability site at:

n Access PS Form 8187 at:

n For contract support with spill response, go to the Facilities Services Category Management site at: