Handling Hazardous Chemical Spills
You probably know the risks of spills very well if you work in an area that deals with any kind of hazardous material. Most companies make spills a very large part of their safety training. Depending on the chemicals you work with, the possible damages and risks may be anything from corrosive acids to toxic oils. All liquids have their own unique properties, and so different chemicals may require totally different solutions to clean up the spills.
If you work with hazardous chemicals, such as acids, then you know that attempting to clean acid with a paper towel is quite useless, as is using a mop or other means which can do a good job of cleaning smaller spills. The chemicals that you work with would eat through a flimsy paper towel or a mop head’s cotton fibers in a matter of minutes, or even seconds if it’s a strong acid. Assuming you could make a mop work temporarily, you’d be buying new mop heads every time you had to clean up a spill. This is, obviously, very counterproductive.
Also, you’ll want to protect yourself, your surroundings and your colleagues and customers from the effects of the spilled chemical. How best do you accomplish this?
The solution to your problem is an easy one. A hazardous materials spill kit contains everything you need to handle the nastiest of hazardous chemicals. The kits that you’ll select for handling a hazmat spill should include quite a few different items. You’ll need an absorbent that will absorb and neutralize the chemical. In kits, these come in the form of loose materials, socks, mats, and pillows. Each can be used for a variety of things. Mats and pillows are great for helping to control leaks that can’t be avoided, or simply can’t be repaired right away. Loose absorbent could be used to contain and to clean a large spill. To do this you’d surround the spill with the absorbent, and then gently push the absorbent in to absorb the chemical. The socks could be used for either application.
Your kit should also contain safety equipment. At the very least, you’re going to need disposable gloves to protect hands, disposable shoe covers to protect shoes from effects of chemicals or causing slips from residue, goggles to protect your eyes, and containers for the safe and legal disposal of the chemicals. It would be a good idea to get a kit which also contains hazmat suits and respirators to protect the full body during spills of particularly aggressive fluids.
Your kit should also contain documentation detailing the use of the products included for anyone who may not know. Take time to familiarize both yourself and any colleagues who may be near the area during a spill with this documentation. Understanding how to effectively and efficiently use the items in the kit and handle a spill can help to control hazards associated with working with chemicals, and may even save a life. As with any hazardous materials, you’ll also find MSDS documentation for any hazardous materials in the are. This sheet will tell you what they are, what they can do, and how to treat if there is any contact with skin, eyes or if it’s inhaled.
Having these kits and knowing how to use them is very important, At the very least, it could save you money. At the very best, it may even save the life of yourself or someone you work with.
The chemicals in your facility pose many hidden risks. Many liquids look completely harmless, just like they might be water. For this reason it is important that all chemicals are clearly labeled and there is documentation available as to what they are capable of. It is also highly imporant that you can clean up spills and leaks of any hazardous chemicals in your facility quickly and efficiently.
Acids and bases are very corrosive chemicals which can cause a very serious burn if they come in contact with flesh. The burns can range from minor irritation (like a rash) to a very serious third degree burn, or worse. Some corrosives can eat through bone.
Many hazardous chemical spill kits are equipped with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as goggles, clothing covers, respirators, goves, and shoe covers for this reason. These measures will help to shield the person working with chemicals from the corrosive properties of the chemicals.
There are many times when you may not realize exactly what liquid you’re working with. Many chemicals are colorless and odorless, and you won’t be able to tell the difference between them and water unless you can see a chemical reaction occurring, such as the bubbling of acid as it reacts with a solid. If you are unable to determine the source of the spilled liquid, for any reason, treat it as a chemical spill. Never assume that any liquid is simply water, especially in a facility that stores chemicals. Just because the liquid is colorless and odorless doesn’t mean that it’s not an acid or a base – or possibly worse – a highly flammable chemical.
Chemical Safety Training
If you own or operate a facility which deals in any type of hazardous chemicals, any training of new employees should include a rigorous chemical safety training segment.
Your employees need to know and understand the chemicals they’ll be working with. Are they using acids or bases? If so, what acids? How strong are they? What are the hazards and how serious can they harm someone? If it’s spilled, what are the proper precautions to take before cleaning it, and what are the procedures for cleaning it?
If they’ll be working in a specific department, make sure your safety training shows them exactly where any spill kits and safety materials will be. Chemical safety should include a kit capable of properly handling and neutralizing any chemicals in the area, proper Personal Protective Equipment, a hand washing sink, an eye wash station and possibly a disinfecting shower. First aid kits should always be available in the workplace.
Make sure your employees know where they can find PPE equipment and that you stock equipment that will fit them. People, unfortunately, are not “one size fits all”. You need to make sure that you have proper equipment available for everyone you employ. If you work in a specialized industry, you may be able to make it a condition of employment that they own their own, especially if it’s essentially a uniform item. It doesn’t matter how you ensure they have and know how to use it, simply that you do.
Your most valuable resource is not the chemicals, or the product, or the building you work in. Your most valuable resource will always be the people who make your product possible. Make sure you keep them safe, trained, and able to handle all of the possibilities their jobs may throw their way. You could employ a group of rocket scientists, but in the event of an accident they may still all be dead if they have no idea where safety equipment is or how it operates.
Spill911.com carries a large selection of spill kits and industrial safety supplies.
We also carry a full supply of spill containment products.