Spill Cleanup Procedures and Equipment

Key Points: Learn how to select the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) for your responders and address and effectively contain the liquid spill.

Once you have assessed the liquid spill, including potential hazards to staff and equipment, your next step should be to select the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) for your responders addressing the spill.

It’s the responsibility of the employer to provide responders with the correct PPE equipment (and training) to protect themselves from hazards as outlined in the Occupational Safety and Health Act, section 19: General provisions relating to occupational safety and health.

Spill Cleanup – Maintenance And Training

Staff must receive training in the correct use of PPE, including maintaining the integrity of the equipment. Regular checks should be carried out to ensure the equipment is operational and reliable.

The time to assess the reliability of your PPE equipment is not at the time of the spill occurring.

Types Of PPE Equipment

PPE Equipment comes in a variety of forms, when addressing liquid spills this would normally include:

  • Respiratory protection: respirators
    Respirators protect the responder from breathing in dangerous fumes or vapours. Respirators come in a variety of levels including disposable, cartridge, full and half face options.
  • Eye Protection: face masks, goggles, eye showers
    These protect the responder from splashes of liquid on the skin or protection the eyes from hazardous fumes and liquids.
  • Hand Protection: gloves
    Protects the hands from burns or absorption of hazardous liquids.
  • Foot Protection: boots
    Protect responders feet from exposure to hazardous materials
  • Skin Protection: protective suits, long sleeved clothing
    Different levels of protective suits are available depending on the level of risk to the responder and offer protection from vapors and hazardous material splashes on the skin.

Additional PPE equipment may include protection for hearing (ear muffs) and head protection (safety helmets) and a range of specialised equipment for specific industries e.g. fire retardant clothes for dealing with flammables.

Safety Data Sheets

Safety data sheets (material safety data sheets, product safety data sheets) provide occupational health and safety information for hazardous products and are the responsibility of the manufacturer to provide and must be provided to the workplace when a hazardous material is supplied or in the event that the SDS has been updated or amended.

They must include the following:

  • The identity and ingredients of the product
  • Potential hazards
  • Correct handling procedures
  • Disposal procedures
  • Emergency procedures
  • SDS are important for cataloging information on liquid chemicals and compounds, and help form the basis of any spill response and selection of PPE equipment for managing spills. They are not required if the product is not hazardous in any capacity.It’s also important to remember that some spills, depending on the contaminant and scale of the spill are best left to emergency responders such as fire brigade or other emergency services. It should be recognised that in some cases it won’t be safe to send personal into a spill area.

Sites that hold high volumes of potential contaminants should have shut down systems in place such as spill response systems, holding tanks and bunds to contain the spill and stop it spreading while the emergency responders mobilise to the site. For example a 10000L fuel spill close to a major river should not be handled in house.

In this instance the fire brigade, council or emergency responders within council should be called. spill, identifying potential risks to staff, equipment and the environment can you make an informed decision on the most effective response to a liquid spill at your workplace and mitigate risks and/or disruptions.

Clean up Products and Procedures

Once the liquid spill has been assessed, potential hazards to staff and equipment identified and the appropriate PPE equipment provided to your designated responders based on the product’s safety data sheets (SDS) the next step in your spill response plan should be to begin the clean up process.

Reducing The Impact Of The Spill

The first consideration when entering the area impacted by the spill, after ensuring responders are wearing appropriate PPE equipment and staff safety is assured is to locate the source of the spill.

The origin of the leak should first be identified e.g. leaking drum or storage container, faulty hose or valve etc. and addressed to prevent the spill from spreading.

The next step should be to prevent the previously spilled liquid from spreading to other areas of the workplace or entering the the drainage system of your workplace (which may result in fines for the business owner) by utilising liquid spill containment products such as:

Automated Spill Control

For larger or more sensitive operations automated spill control systems such as the CMS600 Fox constant monitoring system can be integrated into the drainage system of the workplace. Products such as these constantly monitor water quality, detect water soluble spills and (in the event of a contaminant being detected) divert all water entering the drain to a holding tank until water quality is restored.

These systems have the capacity to detect a spill, address the spill and alert staff, reducing the overall impact of the spill and saving the business owner time and money.

Clean Up Operations

The last stage of spill control training is the clean up process. Products and clean up methods will again be dictated by the products SDS. Some of the products you may require include:

Generally when addressing a spill, absorbent pads and wipes should be used to ‘mop up’ the majority of the liquid spill (be careful not to oversaturate items) and particulate sorbents should be used as a secondary measure to address residue.

How To Use Particulate Sorbents

  1. Dust the area containing residual liquid
  2. Work the sorbent into the liquid residue with the assistance of a broom or rake
  3. Ensure the liquid has been absorbed and fully encapsulated
  4. Check that the area is now dry. If residual liquid is still present apply more sorbent to the area and repeat step 2.

Clean up products such as particulate sorbents, pads, wipes and disposable bags will generally be found in your all-purpose spill kit. Any business requiring the storage of liquid products should have a spill kit on site to remain environmentally compliant.

Products such as sorbents and absorbent pads and wipes should be readily available for responders. Ordering this type of product after the spill event leaves the business owner open to scrutiny by EPA and potential fines.

Safe Disposal

Once the spill has been addressed the next stage is to safely dispose of the clean up material e.g. sorbents, pads and wipes. Products like these, especially if used to address contaminants cannot simply be disposed of as per regular waste.

Your spill kit will contain disposable bags. All disposable equipment used to clean up the spill should be stored within these disposable bags including the materials used to clean the spill and any disposable PPE equipment and tools used to clean up the spill must be identified as hazardous waste and disposed of appropriately.

Non-disposable PPE equipment should be washed and inspected for any damage e.g. tears, to ensure they are reliable in the event of a future spill.

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