Chemical spills are a very real and dangerous safety hazard in the workplace. We’ve already published a number of blog posts on this topic. If you work in an environment were spills could occur, make sure you check out Spill Risks: How to Manage Spills in the Workplace and How To Train your Staff for Emergency Spill Situations.
To handle workplace spills efficiently and with minimal risk, you need to know the types of liquids and the quantity being stored onsite. This is the first step in choosing the right tools for a possible emergency spill. The way a company responds to a spill will be determined by the categorisation of the spill into either major spill or minor spill.
A major spill is characterised by:
- imminent risk of fire or explosion
- immediate danger to life or health
- injuries requiring medical attention
- unknown hazardous material spilt
Minor spills can usually be dealt with right away by the personnel present at the workplace. Despite the lack of emergency calling services for minor spills, government organisations concerned with environment health and safety may offer assistance when spills occur.
Spills can cause panic for untrained staff. However, a well informed workplace can get over the problem of a minor spill quickly and safely. Of course, a major spill may require clean up agencies or emergency response teams.
While hazardous effects through inhalation and ingestion of contaminated materials are the main concerns with workplace spills, they may also cause slips. In a survey titled Workplace Safety Index by Liberty Mutual Group, it has been found that one of the most common types of injuries in the workplace is falls, costing businesses $9.19 billion in 2012 in compensation costs. It’s no wonder safety agencies advocate preparedness through the storage of emergency spill kits in case of a spill emergency.
Consideration when choosing spill kits
A workplace or a business can’t just choose any spill kit and expect it to be useful in an emergency. There are lots of factors to take into consideration, including:
Type of fluid spilled
The very first thing that one has to consider when choosing a spill kit is the type of fluid to be contained. The type of fluid can affect the type of absorbent pads needed. Different types of fluids may also indicate different levels of emergency.
Different spill kit contain different absorbent compositions. Determine what liquid types are being stored at your workplace. Liquid types may include oil, hazardous chemical, fuel, water, etc.
Quantity of spill
Knowing the volume or the quantity of the liquid present in the workplace is the second step you have to take. The amount of liquid will dictate the type of spill kit chosen. If your possible amount of spill is 500 or more gallons, then realistically you will need a spill containment device which can accommodate the same amount of liquid.
The workplace can also dictate the choice spill kits. Some companies may have settings where equipment is stationary while some may have a space where things are constantly moved. This is where another type of spill kit may come in.
Mobile spill kits are most appropriate for workplaces with a lot of through-traffic or moving equipment/machines. It is recommended that you perform a survey of your site before deciding on the kit you want to use. For added precaution, keep your kits near your fluids or possible location of leaks. And always restock with your absorbents.
Is protective equipment needed?
You cannot discount the possibility of hazardous chemical spills. With this, protective equipment may be needed. For those who are tasked to clean the spills, protective clothing such as gloves, goggles, respirators and protective suits are required.
Do you need neutralising agents?
Despite the presence of spill kits and absorbents, a pack of neutralising agents can make a different depending on the fluid. Most spill kits may contain absorbent pads, rags and rings but it will not eliminate the hazard. Neutralising agents will help reduce the risk of flames and toxic vapours.
After the process, the neutralised spill can be safe for disposal. However, these agents may also vary depending on the type of liquid spilled. Some may only neutralise while some may solidify the spilled liquid.
What does a spill kit contain?
Here are the common contents of spill kits:
1. Protective clothing
This is one of the most common contents of a spill kit. Protective clothing is worn to avoid contact with the skin.
2. Mini Brooms
Mini brooms help block spills from entering the network of storm water. Usually, mini booms are positioned in front of the spill to help contain it and stop it from entering areas like storm water pits and even the drainage.
3. Absorbent pads
Absorbent pads are put right into the spill for effective absorption. The number of pads will vary depending on the amount of the liquid spilled.
4. Safety gloves
Safety gloves will protect the wearer from getting in contact with the hazardous liquid. The type of glove will depend on the type of liquid as well.
5. Sorbent or floor sweeper
Floor sweep and sorbent will help absorb and encapsulate spills such as hydrocarbons from hard surfaces.
6. Disposal bags
Disposal bags will be used to bag up the spilled contents. It is also where the used pads will be contained for proper disposal.
The kit will also contain the instructions and things to do. But then this should be used in advanced and not while the emergency is happening.
Different spill kit types
General purpose spill kits
The general purpose spill kits are designed to address non-hazardous spills. Among workplaces which do not contain hazardous fluids, this is the type that is usually present. Settings like food processing plants, schools, shopping complexes and other factories usually have this kind of spill kit.
This type of spill kit is usual used to avoid the physical hazard of spills lie, slipping.
Fuel spill kits
Fuel spills are present in settings where mechanical work is carried out. It can also be seen in ports, mariners and cargo facilities. Fuel spill kits is usually used to split fuel from water as it contains hydrophobic characteristics, meaning they won’t absorb water but will only sip the hazardous liquid.
A universal absorbent pad used in the Universal spill kit may not be compatible with this kit. It also comes in different sizes.
Oil spill kits
Usually, fuel and oil spill kits come together since most fuel are also oil based. Like fuel spill kit, it also aims to absorb only the oil and not the water that it contaminate. This type of spill kits can be found among places or settings where oils and fuels are used. it may come in different sizes and type as well.
Hazardous chemical spill kits
Hazchem spill kits are essential in workplaces or settings where a chance of spilling chemicals is high. Often, chemical spills are viewed as emergency depending on the type of liquid spilled. This might cause health hazard if it is not contained right away and contained effectively.
The hazchem spill kit will also based on the type of chemical spill. A wrong absorbent may cause further hazard and may cause potential fire risk. For this, companies or workplace settings are required in advance to identify all liquid chemicals with possibility of being spilled and get the best possible kit for it. The response kit can be supplied and explained by spill kit providers. But for companies with chemicals that are numerous the best possible way to spot the right spill kit is through colour coding.
Colour coding spill kits is an effective way to suppress emergency spills right away. It will help employees be aware of the correct response spill kit. The use of right spill kit on different situation will help avoid further problems. The colour coding helps in the proper use of each spill kit facility. Spill kit suppliers already are aware of this thus they already have their own coding which you can inquire about before purchase.
So, ready to face those spills? Get your spill kits on hand.