Oil and chemical spills are costly and damaging to the environment

Take the Keystone Pipeline oil spill as an example. Back in 2019, a part of the Keystone Pipeline in North Dakota had to cease operations after over 380,000 gallons of oil leaked, according to a report from USA Today. Businesses and other organizations need to remember that incidents like this are preventable.

Prevention, however, is only possible with adequate preparedness. By taking requisite precautionary measures to reduce the risk of spillage, businesses can effectively handle potentially dangerous chemicals and other substances securely in a way that safeguards workers and the surrounding environment.

Here are four suggestions to help you prevent and contain spills effectively:

1. Use Spill Containment and Prevention Tools and Equipment

The right tools and equipment can prevent spills that cause worker accidents and damage to the environment.

Spill kits contain materials that absorb chemicals easily. Facility managers should put these spill kits next to areas where employees store or use hazardous chemicals.

Bunds and pallets also help contain spills. A roll over bund, for instance, minimizes the impact refueling has on the environment by containing accidental spills. It’s ideal for use aboveground with the addition of ramps or at ground level. On the other hand, a spill containment pallet contains ruptures, drips or leaks from chemical storage drums.

2. Evaluate Your Spill History

Assess the history of spills, as well as falls, trips or slips for each walk area, work area and machine in your facility. Come up with an appropriate action plan based on your findings.

Not all spills, though, go through a documentation process. Sometimes, employees only document EPA and OSHA reportable spills. Don’t worry, though. There are other ways to determine the history of spills in your business establishment or facility.

You can, for example, review the number of absorbents or spill kits used in each area of your facility. This is possible by doing the following:

  • Conducting informal reporting
  • Speaking with machine operators to obtain more information on absorbent usage, as well as a history of non-reportable spills and leaks
  • (If applicable) Getting reports from a managed oil absorbent service, with reports showing utilization by staging area or machine

3. Interview Your Employees

Speak with machine operators, construction personnel and other facility workers in each work area. Do a quick five-minute interview to get a good understanding of absorbent usage, potential slip hazards in the production floor and fluids used in the facility.

Interview several people from various shifts to get a good representation. Then, take note of traffic patterns throughout the day. This will allow you to check for possible tracking issues of oil making its way into the walkways.

Not sure what to ask your employees? Take note of the following sample interview questions:

  • Do you have concerns with slip hazards and spills while you’re working at the facility?
  • Where are you storing the products?
  • If you encounter a spill, what do you do? Do you use mops or absorbents? How often do you do this? Are they effective?
  • Have you encountered any tracking, pooling, oozing, dripping or splashing?
  • What kind of fluid is coming out of the machines?
  • What can management do to improve the facility’s spill prevention and containment measures?

4. Go Over Your Spill Containment Plan

If your storage tank or other primary forms of containment fail, you’ll need a secondary containment that acts as your next line of defense for spill prevention. The appropriate spill containment tool will help prevent fluids, chemicals and other substances from spreading in the event of a spill, drip or leak. Make sure you have both active and passive spill containment measures in place.

Active spill containment requires a worker to act quickly after a spill happens.

Examples include the following:

  • Installing a temporary containment wall
  • Using mops or a spill kit to clean up the spill
  • Putting down drain covers

Passive spill containment, on the other hand, refers to measures in place in the event of a spill.

Here are a few examples:

  • Absorbent safety floor mats installed in walkways and other areas that are prone to spills
  • Underground storage for spill diversion
  • Drip buckets or pans
  • Absorbent socks, pads and mats lining the storage tanks and machines

When reviewing your spill containment plan, perform a thorough investigation of all machines, tanks and storage containers that process fluids or leak chemicals and other substances. If storage failure occurs, make sure that you have secondary containment in place to stop the fluid from entering the drains and walkways.

A sound spill prevention plan is a crucial part of employee safety and environmental compliance. Make sure that your workplace or facility follows these tips to help keep your workers, the job site and the environment safe.

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