Containing Spilled Liquids: Since a Spreading Spill Sends Employees Scattering in All Directions, Prepare Your Spill Response Plans in Advance

By Hamel, Karen | Occupational Hazards, March 2007 | Go to article overview

Containing Spilled Liquids: Since a Spreading Spill Sends Employees Scattering in All Directions, Prepare Your Spill Response Plans in Advance


Hamel, Karen, Occupational Hazards


Watching a spill spread kicks most people into high gear as everyone scrambles for supplies to get the mess cleaned up. Preparing spill response plans in advance, stocking the proper spill containment tools in a convenient place and training workers to use them can help everyone be more productive during a response.

Creating a physical barrier between a spilled liquids and sensitive areas, such as unprotected storm drains, electrical devices and offices is one of the first steps in tackling a spill, and there are many ways to create those barriers without the investment and inherent problems created by permanent dikes and berms.

For small spills, absorbent socks are useful because they will both stop the spill from spreading as well as help absorb the fluids that have been spilled. They are more convenient and efficient than loose absorbents such as clay, which have to be swept and shoveled during cleanup operations.

Absorbent socks are available in many different sizes and have different absorbent media to meet chemical needs. In many cases, absorbent socks already are stocked and used within the facility in a variety of applications.

Sometimes, it's not practical or desirable to absorb an entire spill. For example, if a bulk tank leaks and several hundred gallons spill, a sock that absorbs 2 gallons may not be the greatest source of help. Often, responders are able to vacuum and recover the spilled liquids for reuse instead of absorbing it, making absorbents a less-desirable option.

Non-absorbent polyurethane dikes and drain covers are popular, low-maintenance resources for these scenarios. They form a seal with smooth surfaces, allowing the user to divert or contain liquids until they can be properly handled.

Incorporating socks and non-absorbent dikes into spill response plans and stocking them in appropriate locations for fast use during a response will help responders contain and control spills quicker and more effectively.

Spill Kits

Many companies create or purchase spill kits, which offer a variety of spill response products and can be pulled out quickly in the event of an emergency. When creating or choosing a spill kit, keep these five important points in mind:

* What liquids will you be absorbing? Choosing a spill kit with absorbents designed to absorb both water and oil-based liquids when responding to an oil spill on water can be a costly mistake. Likewise, having a spill kit available with limited compatibility when responding to a highly corrosive liquid may result in an undesirable chemical reaction. By knowing what liquids are used in your facility, you can select the correct variety of kit to meet your needs. …

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