All vehicles that carry Hazardous materials are marked with an internationally agreed code which identifies, to the emergency services, the material being carried, the appropriate means of dealing with it in the event of an accident and a contact telephone number for further advice.
This code is normally carried at the rear of the vehicle but it may be shown on both sides as well.
The list of materials is very large but all drivers should be able to recognize the commonest and most hazardous codes. (See the Highway Code)
REMEMBER, these may be highly toxic chemicals
If you come upon a spillage or incident:
DO NOT approach too closely, particularly if there is a strong smell
If you can see the code plate, make a note of the symbols and words used and convey this information to the emergency services IMMEDIATELY.
Clear people from the area and impose a no-smoking ban
If a fuel or gas tanker is involved clear a large area including adjacent housing if in a town.
If fire extinguishers are available, station them near the incident but DO NOT attempt to fight the fire unless you are absolutely sure what the toxic material is. ALL tankers carry extinguishers suitable for the load carried. These are usually at the side or rear of the vehicle.
If the driver is able to, let him take charge, he will have received specialist training for such an eventuality and will know what to do.
Article © Graham Benge 2007