Spills are a part of life. Whether it’s a glass of water on the kitchen, your hot coffee on your lap as you drive to work, or the oil on the warehouse floor, spills can occur at a moments notice and can lead to serious injuries– especially at the workplace.
At home or work, spills should always be taken serious. Spills can lead to a variety of consequences. There is a high chance of a slip and fall injury, the threat of being burned, as well as the possible exposure to dangerous substances and fumes. The key to avoiding spills and the subsequent aftermath, is to have a solid spill prevention and cleanup plan in place.
The following are some ideas on how to treat workplace spills as well as some thoughts on prevention methods to help you avoid spills all together.
Label your materials and storage locations to ensure that every employee is aware of the materials they are working with and where they go when they need to be returned. This not only keeps consistency and accuracy up, but also provides the information needed to respond as quickly as possible when a spill does occur.
Have a spill response plan in place and make sure your employees are trained properly in the event of a spill. Your organization should always have material safety data sheets (MSDS) available for each material at the workplace. These sheets are you guide to inform employees of the correct spill response, cleanup and disposal techniques for each material. It is imperative that every employee reads and understands your spill response plan and that MSDS are easily accessible so that they can be reached quickly in the event of an emergency.
Have the proper equipment ready at all times. When cleaning up a spill, employees need to wear the right gear to ensure their safety and well being. This includes, but not limited to safety gloves, safety glasses, coveralls and respirators. Employees need to not only know how to properly wear this safety gear, but also know where to find it when it’s needed.
Have the right spill kit and absorbents on hand. Spill kits are one of the most important safety items to own in an industrial setting. Spills can occur in a moments notice, causing hazardous liquids to spread quickly. Spills of hazardous substances such as chemicals, fuels, lubricants, and coolants, are the cause of billions of dollars in lost revenue annually, lost production time, and safety fines/violations. Having the right spill kit and absorbents ready at all times can reduce these risks significantly.
Timing is everything. The damage can add up quickly if you don’t respond immediately to a spill. As soon as one spots or causes a spill, they should immediately notify their supervisor and co-workers. They should shut off all flame sources and air out the area if it is safe to do so. Alert others by barricading the area so that those passing by are alert to the situation. If any workers are exposed to the substance, they need to get medical attention immediately. It is recommended that if a worker is exposed to a hazardous material, you should get them to a well-ventilated area and use the emergency eye wash station or shower on them for a minimum of 15 minutes.
Get help if you are unsure or can’t handle the spill by yourself. While some spills may be perfectly fine to clean up by yourself, many will require you to reach out to your fellow employees– in a timely manner.
Consider the size of the spill when determining the response to it. Different size spills should be handled accordingly. A good rule of thumb is that if a spill is equal to one cup or less, an employee should be able to handle this with paper towels or the required absorbent materials. If a spill is around one gallon, it will typically require spill socks, pads, or other absorbents capable of handling this amount. For larger spills, employees should circle around the puddle and use absorbent materials to soak up the material from the outside in. For spills of two gallons or more, employees should consider contacting their emergency response team or an outside resource if they don’t have one.
Think before you store. Materials should always be stored in an appropriate, well-sealed container, in the correct environment. You should always store like materials together. Attach the proper spill response technique and emergency phone numbers on or near the storage area. All materials should be stored indoors, away from exterior drains or doors. This will help prevent environmental exposure in case of a spill.