Depending on the industry you work in, it’s highly likely that spills will occur from time-to-time, even with the right policies and procedures in place. But if you can identify and manage some basic risks involved with the hazardous chemicals present in your workplace, you are less likely to have these types of more toxic spills occur, as well as be able to contain these quicker if these arise.
As chemical spills are classified as an urgent environmental hazard, containing these quickly is critical before it can endanger the health and safety of those present in the workplace, as well as have a toxic impact on the environment. Fuel stations, workshops, transport depots, mining sites and manufacturing plants are all workplaces that are often at risk of spills of hazardous substances.
Identify hazardous chemicals in your workplace
A hazard is defined as a set of properties in a substance that could cause negative effects either to organisms or to the environment. Hazardous chemicals that could result in immediate or long-term harm or illness to people are separated into two broad categories. The first of these are health hazards, which are the properties of a chemical that could result in short-term or long-term health risks after exposure. Then there’s the second category which is a physicochemical hazard that has properties that can cause harm as a result of inappropriate handling, rather than the biological impact of the chemical due to exposure. Examples of this hazard range from chemically reactive and explosive to corrosive and flammable.
Spill risks can include:
- Oil or fuel products that are used for vehicles or other types of machinery
- Any hydraulically operated equipment
- Degreasers, detergents or other varieties of industrial cleaners
- Products that have chemical compounds added, such as emulsifiers or sulphates
- All types of acids and solvents
- Any thinners and paints
- Irrigation and fertilising products and farming pesticides.
Store products properly to minimize hazardous chemical spill risks
As part of your spill response plan you initially have to identify all potential hazardous chemical spill risks. Such products should be located appropriately according to their storage and MSDS advice. For instance, they may need to be kept under cover, out of direct sunlight, or in a well ventilated area. It may be necessary to install bunding or use bunded pallets as a preventative measure to contain a potential spill and satisfy environmental regulations.
Choose appropriate spill kit contents
For the different types of hazardous chemicals in your workplace, it’s essential to have the appropriate spill kit contents available to contain and clean up the spill. The type of spill kit you’ll need is determined by the contaminant you identify as being a spill risk.
Spill kits can be used for any workplace that is at risk from a hazardous spill occurring. Due to the danger involved in a hazardous chemical spill, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) should be consulted before this spill is contained, to ensure the right PPE, procedures and spill kit contents are used.