How to Safely Clean up Industrial Spills

In any business, accidents will happen from time to time. Between all the hustle and bustle of busy employees, patrons, and vendors, there’s a good chance that, at some point, someone will back into the wrong container and send its contents flying. This means that it’s a good idea to have a plan to deal with workplace spills when they happen.

A plan for dealing with workplace spills is a mixture of preventative measures—or best practices—and procedures for responding to a spill once it has occurred. Here are some tips to help you and your staff prevent, prepare for, and respond to workplace spills.

Prevention

The first step in preparing for workplace spills is to ensure that materials are being properly stored and handled. Although these measures may not address the event of a spill directly, implementing them will decrease the frequency of spills. These will also protect employees from being harmed in the event that something goes wrong.

Ensure hazardous chemicals are properly stored. Proper storage is important because if chemicals and liquids are properly stored then there is less of a chance they can be spilled in the first place. Here are some general guidelines for the proper storage of chemicals.

  • Label everything. There should be a system in place to ensure that every chemical has a label that alerts people to the potential danger of the contents.
  • Use chemical logs. OSHA requires that a “Hazard Communication” be in place, part of which means maintaining a log that details who is using what substance and when. Keep this log near hazardous materials.
  • Use chemical cabinets. The best way to prevent spills is to safely store chemicals when they are not in use. A chemical cabinet is a good way to keep chemicals stored and secure.

Ensure that hazardous liquids are properly handled. The second part of preventing chemical spills is to make sure that people are handling hazardous materials correctly. Think about implementing the following guidelines in your workplace:

  • Wear proper PPE. Whenever employees interact with harmful materials, they should wear the proper safety equipment. This could be gloves, eye-protectors, aprons, non-slip boots, etc. For a general overview of proper PPE, check OSHA’s guidelines.
  • Require regular training. The second part of the proper handling of hazardous materials is to have regular training for all employees that interact with these materials. Make sure that people know how to handle each chemical, what the proper PPE is, and what to do in the event of an accident.

Preparation 

When working with hazardous materials, always have a spill cleanup kit that can be quickly accessed in order to respond to a spill. 

What kinds of items should be in your spill kit? Here are some things to consider. 

  • Personal Protective Equipment. The first thing to have at the ready is personal protective equipment. The PPE depends largely on the materials that have been spilled, so you’ll have to consider the materials that are being used in your workplace and acquire the appropriate PPE.
  • Sorbent pads. These are pads that can hold many times their weight. When a spill occurs, these pads can be dropped over chemicals in order to absorb them quickly before they spread.
  • Spill kit boxes. These containers can be used to store materials for cleaning up spills in addition to holding hazardous materials after a clean-up. It’s a good practice to keep everything you’ll need for a clean up in one bin. Spill kit containers are a helpful solution since they are designed not only for storage of clean-up items but for hazardous materials as well.
  • Spill nets/hose. These are flexible absorbent pads that are similar to the square sorbent pads used for clean-up. The difference is that these hoses can be used to wrap around the circumference of a spill in order to prevent further spread.

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Response

Once you have the necessary tools in place, the final part of addressing a chemical spill in the workplace is the response of the staff. It’s not enough to simply have the appropriate items for cleaning up a spill. People need to know what to do before, during, and after the cleanup process. 

Here are some guiding principles to consider implementing in your workplace.

  • Quick Reference. OSHA stipulates that in the event of a spill there should be a quick reference near the area where the chemicals are stored or used. This could be a binder, a laminated chart, or anything that can quickly guide employee response in the event of a spill. People need to know what to put on, what to grab, and what to do.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). After employees check the quick reference, they should then put on the right PPE. What to put on depends largely on which hazardous materials have been spilled, so make sure your staff knows what PPE is appropriate.
  • Training. The best way to train for a spill is to simulate a response. Have a training where the staff practices what they would do in the event of an actual spill. Have them go to where the spill kit is located, grab the necessary items, set up containment equipment, place down absorbent pads, etc. Afterward, talk to them about what they did right and what needs to be corrected.
  • Disposal. After a cleanup, waste should be disposed of in a proper container or bin. Ensure that your staff knows what these are and where cleanup materials should be placed after responding to a spill.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with a chemical spill in your workplace. In the event that you do, however, following these tips can ensure that an accident is responded to effectively. 

In addition to these guidelines, Eagle Manufacturing offers a range of products that can aid your business in responding to spills. From absorbent pads to spill kits, our products can help you and your staff safe and prepared.

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