There are plenty of fluids sloshing around construction sites. From paint thinners, to antifreeze and gasoline utilized in heavy machinery, to caustic cleaning chemicals, there are a wide variety of liquids used over the course of a project. Unfortunately, with liquids, the dangers of a spill is always there. Even in a well-protected, well-lit area with everyone paying attention to the proper spill prevention procedures, accidents happen.
Not having a chemical or oil spill in the first place is obviously best for everyone, so putting time and effort into spill prevention is the best move to make. Follow the proper procedures for storing, transferring, handling, using, and disposing of chemicals, as noted in the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Some chemicals need to be stored in fireproof containers, and should be kept in flammable storage cabinets. Others should not be exposed to excessive heat. Some should not be stored in plastics, so only metal safety cansshould be used. Some need to be kept stable, and not jostled when moved.
A few simple, basic rules for spill prevention:
- Inspect containers and replace when you see signs of wear, including cracking, corrosion, discoloration, or drip marks.
- Make sure all lids and caps are closed tightly when a container is not in use.
- Position all containers so that they are out of the usual walkways.
- Avoid buying or storing more chemicals or oil than is necessary for the project.
The more effort you put in to prevention, the less you’ll need to put into response and reaction.
Dangers of Spills
The hazard level of every spill will be different – there are numerous factors to take into consideration. What is the material that was spilled? How much? What kind of surface was it been spilled on? Was the spill inside or outside? Is the area ventilated? What is the temperature of the material, the surface, or the general area? Is it in a watershed?
Every one of these factors can change the dangers of a spill.
The first thing to remember after a spill occurs is that panic will only exacerbate things. Time is valuable, and a rapid response is important, but a panicked response ends up making things first. You’ve got training – rely on that to stay calm, and create an efficient, level-headed response.
- Assess the site risks and present hazards in the situation.
- Communicate the hazards to others working in the area, as well as supervisory personnel and emergency services if necessary. Make sure that you know what material has been spilled, and the quantity – these are facts you’ll need to pass on to emergency responders so they know how they need to respond.
- Dress for the part – refer to the MSDS or other information at hand and don the appropriate personal protective equipment. Don’t forget about respiratory protectionif needed, it is particularly important in unventilated areas. If respiratory protection is needed, make sure to have another person on hand outside of the contaminated area and in communication, in case the respiratory equipment malfunctions and emergency response is needed.
- If any people are contaminated, attend to them first. Have contaminated clothing removed, and the skin flushed with water for fifteen minutes or more.
- If the spill is volatile or flammable, immediately warn all persons in the area, control any sources of spark or ignition, and work to start ventilation of the area as soon as possible.
- Control the spill by preventing further spillage. Right the container that has been tipped over, close the valve if it is open, or block the spillway. Make
- Contain the hazard, paying particular attention to floor drains or other ways the spill can contaminate the surrounding environment. Spill socksand absorbentsshould be placed around drains that cannot otherwise be closed or blocked.
- Clean up the spill, and clean up or repair the damage it may have caused. Every worksite should have multiple available spill kits, with sizing appropriate of potential materials used on the site. Use absorbents, spreading loose spill control materialsacross the spill starting from the outside. Specific oil-absorbent padscan be used for oil spills. If the spill is a large spill, it is unlikely that a simple spill kit will be useful – local emergency responders with advanced spill containment capabilities should be contacted immediately.
Creating a Spill Plan
To make sure the reaction to a spill goes well, having a spill plan in place and going over it on a regular basis, or even rehearsing it, is a good idea. The plan itself will have to take into account the characteristics and volume of chemical and oil materials being handled and their potential toxicity.
- Review Safety Data Sheets and other references for recommended spill cleanup methods and materials, as well as the need for personal protective equipment.
- Store Safety Data Sheets in easy-to-access Right-to-Know Centers.
- Create a spill control inventory of materials and equipment that is quickly accessible. In addition to absorbents and control materials such as socks, covers, and barrier, you’ll need to include everything that could be necessary, such as brushes, scoops, brooms, sealable containers and more for full clean-up duties.
- Set up a response plan that includes:
- Who to contact in the event of a spill, including name, office phone number, cell phone number, or any other method of immediate contact.
- Evacuation plans.
- Instructions for containment and protection of the area.
- Itemized inventory of all spill control materials and personal protective equipment, which also makes it easy to replace pieces after use.
- Means for disposal of cleanup materials, including contaminated clothing.
- Decontamination process.
Once you have all of this in place, have a meeting with all employees that could potentially be involved in spills – causing them or cleaning them up, or both – and make sure that the spill plan is understood and easy for all to follow. Don’t exclude workers from this meeting, if possible include every person on the site. The more people that know how to respond quickly and appropriately, the more likely it is that a spill will be contained quickly and efficiently.
Here at PowerPak, we are experts when it comes to building spill response stocks and inventories that fit the needs of a variety of industrial and construction sites. Get in contactwith one of our customer representatives today, and they will help you to get your site fitted out with the right kits, containers, and anything else you need to build a comprehensive chemical and oil spill prevention and response package!
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