• Posted by: Nick

Spill Response: When To Absorb and When To Contain

What is a spill?

Spills always happen in most industrial facilities. 

A spill is defined by Occupational Health and Safety magazine as when an overflow of “high levels of toxic or potentially harmful ingredients or substances that could injure workers,” if the flow is exposed. 

What is essential is preventing and containing — and reacting effectively to the spills when it happens. This means having the right tools and knowledge to clear up the mess. What are the tools to manage the spill effectively, and are they updated to the latest modern gadgets? Are these chemical spill contingency plans current?

Review your relevant government guidelines and protocols to check whether anything has changed. For example, Australia has its national plan that clearly states what actions companies need to take in a marine oil spill or industrial oil spill. Prevention is another area that will reduce the impact of the spill. Your company must install educational visuals that constantly explain the effects of spills. Are there high levels of toxic or potentially harmful chemicals that will cause a fire or explosion or dangerously impact indoor oxygen levels in the facility? The facility must arm people with the necessary information to evacuate everyone to safe ground.

What is Spill Response?

Whether it is in an industrial facility or transportation of hazardous materials, the potential for spill happens all the time. While data shows that oil spills have lowered worldwide, it is still important to ensure that management trains staff in responding to spills. Besides the regulatory requirement that all employees are trained to handle chemical spills, the management must also observe the strict safety regulations. There are two parts to spill response: absorbing and containing spills. Below is an outline of 7 easy steps to spill response: 

 7 Easy Steps To Spill Response

While steps to contain any spill response action plan are the same, the first thing is to assess the spill’s size if the spill involves 50 gallons or more of a liquid. That qualifies as a major spill.

It is essential to set up a spill response team.  These are the seven easy steps to manoeuvre the movement to spill response.

  •  Isolate the area; install warning cones around the incident area; a 25-foot radius is recommended.
  • Evacuate the workers from the workspace determined by the size and type of spill.
  •  Call the police or fire department if the content of the spill is considered dangerous according to safety rules.
  • Wear appropriate safety gear such as gloves, eye goggles, mask, and a PPE gown.
  • Use any absorbent materials that help absorb and block the spills from spreading.
  • Sweep and wipe any debris caused by the spill and dispose of it properly.
  • Most workplaces require a report document to the authorities.

Usage of Spill Kit

A spill kit is a well-organised set of designed equipment to clean up dangerous substances.

Spill kits come in duffle bags, wheelie bins, and even trailers. The custom contents of a spill kit include 

  •  Waste disposal bags
  •  PPE wear (personal protective equipment)
  •  Absorbents for soaking up the spill
  •  A containment boom for preventing further spread of the spill
  •  Dispersants (in some cases)

The goal of a spill kit is to contain the spill in a short time and clean it up effectively.  

However, even with the spill kit, management must ensure that workers are aware of workplace safety knowledge. Everyone must see the importance of working safely in the environment and be prepared.

Spill Response Procedures: When to Absorb and When to Contain Spills? 

To respond to this question as to when you should absorb or contain spills, it is important to first note that every workplace should have a standard protocol for containing spills. When a spill occurs, report to your supervisor or manager -no matter how small the situation. The team should be permitted to obtain a material safety data sheet for each chemical and proper procedures to follow up their encounter. Here are some suggested ways to consider whether you should absorb or contain spills: 

  • Risk assessment: The first part of the absorbing procedure of spill is to assess the risk by identifying the chemical and choosing the necessary gear to prevent injuries. Consider the situation and specify the Personal Protective Gear required when responding to a spill
  • Control and Containment of Spills

 Once the case has been addressed, take steps to keep the spill from contaminating the rest of the area. Containing is the first line of response no matter how large or small the problem is. Control the spread of the problem by confining the size to a small space by using absorbent material or neutraliser. Spread the fabric around the perimeter of the spills. Ensure the spill stays in one area and does not flow into a floor drain or other places. Use a dike spill sock to block the spread.

If the spill is fast spreading, absorbing the overflow becomes critical. The worksite must have a supply of materials for absorbing the spill—items of absorbent materials, paper towels, and an elaborate kit with special cleaning equipment and personal protective gear. Handy absorbent materials include sand, clay, or even pet litter.

  • Minimise the risk: Block access to spilled material with caution tape to prevent others from coming in contact with it. 

Last step after Containing: Clean up and decontaminate

Clean up the spill and any related damages. Gather the materials used to contain the spill and dispose of them in the specified ways. The garbage black plastic bags will keep a small spill, and drums or pails hold the more significant spill.

At the same time, larger spills may require plastic pails or drums. Dispose of any materials used to clean the spill, e.g. brooms. Clean the surface with the right cleaner for spill materials. Use another absorbent material to rinse the floor. Then make sure to have a clean bath to rinse off any chemicals from your skin and dispose of the clothing if necessary.

Conclusion

Your company needs to have a good safety plan for the right time to absorb and contain a spill. They need to obtain a suitable spill usage kit. The spill plan includes prevention and clear guidance on how and when to handle evacuation. In addition, management must ensure details about proper containment, clean-up, and disposal of spilled material are clearly explained to all workers. That way, workers know how to decontaminate the surfaces where the spill is located. By developing a thorough plan to ensure that the spill is fully absorbed and contained, you are minimising the potential dangers posed by chemical spills. 

Emergency spill response call-outs: Ecospill can help

Ecospill knows that spill events can happen at any time. Ecospill has an after-hours call-out service to supply help at any time, day or night. They have a spill response trailer that they can utilise at a moment’s notice, should you need it, to help protect you, your facility, and the environment.