Accidents involving dangerous substances

Accidents involving dangerous substances

If there is a traffic accident involving dangerous substances, the ADR-certified driver will be the person most qualified to deal with the situation until the arrival of the emergency services. Two of the most likely possible scenarios are fire and the release of hazardous substances.


There are three ingredients for fire:

  • Oxygen
  • Fuel
  • Ignition produced by heat from sparks, cigarettes, overheated tyres & brakes, static electrical charge, faulty wiring or naked flames

All fires are extinguished by removing one of the three elements listed above.

All ADR vehicles in the UK must be equipped with one extinguisher of at least 2kg dry powder for cab fires and one extinguisher of at least 6kg dry powder suitable for dealing with fires in the load.

Dealing with fire

  1. Remember your own safety
  2. React quickly and logically
  3. Assess the situation. Tackle the fire only if it is safe to do so
  4. Remember the three elements of fire. Try to remove one of them from the equation
  5. Never fight a fire involving aerosols, cylinders etc. as they may explode
  6. Always move people away from the immediate area

Preventing fire

  1. Check your vehicle regularly. Poor maintenance or minor defects may cause a fire
  2. Keep your vehicle rubbish-free
  3. Remove all sources of ignition such as lighters, matches etc
  4. Follow operating procedures
  5. Avoid loading flammables and ‘oxygen providers’ (organic peroxides, oxidising agents etc.) in the same load

Release of Hazardous Substances

If the materials that you are carrying are released, always follow this procedure:

  1. Call the emergency services as soon as possible, giving details of your load, the location etc. If possible, ask someone else to do this so that you can remain at the scene
  2. Try to help anyone who is injured or in immediate danger

If possible, also take the following actions:

  1. Move the vehicle to a place of safety, but only if it is safe to do so
  2. Stop the engine
  3. Remove any written information about the load from the vehicle’s cab in order to give both yourself and the emergency services useful advice. If safe to do so, turn off the battery isolating switch (if fitted)
  4. Keep people away
  5. Put on protective clothing
  6. Keep all possible sources of potential ignition away from the scene of the accident – other vehicles etc. Stop people smoking
  7. Put out a warning triangle behind the spillage or the vehicle
  8. Try to contain the spillage


  • Place yourself in danger. Protective equipment is designed to allow you to leave the danger area, not for use over long periods
  • Tackle a large fire with a cab extinguisher
  • Enter a confined space if there is even the smallest possibility of a gas build-up

When the Emergency Services arrive:

  1. Show them any written information about the substance
  2. Tell them what you have already done
  3. Tell them about anyone else involved who may need their help
  4. Tell the client as soon as possible
  5. Tell your Driver Hire office as soon as possible


If possible, always manoeuvre the vehicle into a safe location to avoid causing an obstruction or an accident.

Contact the client and inform them of these details:

  • Your name
  • Cab-phone number (if fitted)
  • The vehicle’s position and location
  • Whether or not the vehicle is loaded
  • The remaining delivery points
  • The vehicle’s make, model and registration number
  • For tyre problems, state the make, type, size and position of the tyre
  • For tail-lifts, state the make and model
  • For windscreens, explain the scope of the damage
  • If the vehicle is totally inoperable, you will be advised as to how best to return to your base – train, bus, car, etc.
  • If your breakdown is on a motorway, make sure that the police have been informed and keep them informed of any developments i.e. vehicle recovered/repaired