Spill containment: What you need to know

Spill containment strategy

Correctly managing spill containment is crucial for any workplace storing or using liquids that could pose a threat to humans or the environment if a leak or spill occurs.

Businesses are legally required to protect employees, others and the environment.

In the case of hazardous liquids, this means ensuring that a spill risk assessment has been conducted and there is a spill containment strategy – including spill response plan – in place, according to a new Spill Containment Guide published by Pratt Safety Systems.

Liquids this may apply to include, but are not limited to:

  • Hazardous chemicals, such as toxic substances, carcinogens, and agricultural and industrial chemicals
  • Fuels, petrols and other flammable liquids
  • Polluted water, such as runoff or stormwater containing surface chemicals
  • Chemical waste

The guide outlines the information that should be gathered in a workplace spill risk assessment, including chemical types, quantities, locations and possible reactions, as well as administrative and engineering controls which can minimise the risk of a spill.

A common type of engineering control is the use of secondary containment facilities, such as spill decks and bladder systems, which automatically contain a spill if a leak occurs and which the guide recommends should be part of any spill containment strategy.

However, while preventing or minimising risk should always be the first priority using the Hierarchy of Control, unless the risk of a spill can be completed eradicated, a spill response plan should also be prepared.

Spill response plans and spill kits:

A nine-step workplace spill response plan is recommended in the guide, beginning with an initial assessment of the situation, through to restocking PPE and other supplies following the incident:

1. Assess the risk

2. Identify the type and source of spilled chemical

3. Protect yourself with appropriate PPE

4. Contain the spill

5. Control the source

6. Clean up the spill

7. Dispose of used absorbents and chemicals

8. Decontaminate all tools

9. Restock any materials

A significant part of the plan involves choosing an appropriate spill kit and using its contents to contain and clean up the spill.

Spill kit components:

Spill kits include absorbent materials, such as booms, pads, pillows and floor sweeps, and other accessories, such as contaminated waste bags, personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers, nitrile chemical gloves, barricade tape and safety information tags.

Three types of spill kits exist for different types of liquid spills, based on the type of absorbent materials used, making it critical that workplaces ensure they have the right type of kits for all possible spill risks.

A spill identification chart, such as the one provided in the guide, can simplify the process of choosing a spill kit in an emergency.

Spill kits also come in different sizes and absorption capacities. As spill kits must be able to absorb the maximum likely spill that could occur in a workplace, it is critical not to be under-prepared for a spill emergency.

For more details, download the Spill Containment Guide. Developed for employers, health and safety executives and end users, the guide provides a comprehensive understanding of spill containment risks and safety procedures.

It also educates readers on when a spill containment strategy should be in place, why it is important, the costs to businesses and which authorities should be informed when a spill occurs.

Download the Spill Containment Guide here.

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