Spills come in all different shapes and forms they can occur in laboratories or garages, indoors or outdoors, can be associated with medical or contamination emergencies, and come big or small. But no matter what kind of hazardous material spill you’re dealing with, there are some rules of thumb that apply to all scenarios.
So whether your spill is radioactive, bio-hazardous, or something else altogether, keep these five things in mind to maximize your efficiency in handling it:
Prior to conducting any work, all employees need to become familiar with the hazards of the chemicals they will be using. Everyone that will eventually come into contact with these chemicals and associated equipment (even minimal contact) needs to be thoroughly trained, and all questions and concerns should be addressed promptly. Emphasizing both the scope of the danger and the efficacy of education encourages employees to be careful and lessens the likelihood of spills.
Spill response procedures are important, but they’re not worth much if workers haven’t seen them until it’s already too late. Develop these procedures well ahead of time, and be sure to include things like staff responsibilities, equipment instructions, cleanup expectations, communication methods, and disposal protocols for residue. Once you’ve written them down, don’t just forget about them; spill response procedures should be reviewed and updated often. Once you have procedures in place that you feel comfortable with, include them as a mandatory training segment. Conduct drills and practice runs to ensure that your workers know them backwards and forwards.
In the event of a spill, there’s no greater priority than the safety of yourself and your workers. Chemical spills and releases can cause fires, explosions, and fumes and can come into contact with a worker’s skin or be ingested and inhaled. If such a threat exists, or if you are unsure of the toxicity, you will need to contact emergency responders.
Once you’ve done everything in your power to protect human health, you need to start thinking about environmental and property damage. Confining contamination will help to eliminate these risks, but it’s wise to remember that if the spill threatens to damage your property, it’s likely it would also threaten your workers. A threat to the environment can easily translate into a threat to the public. Simple containment suggestions include closing doors, building dikes around the edges of a spill, adding absorbents, or neutralizing acids and bases. Containment should certainly be your goal, but only once you have carefully evaluated the risks.
You will probably be capable of cleaning up a small spill on your own, but a more complex job should be carried out by trained professionals.
Depending on the kind of spill you have experienced, you might be required to notify different authorities. For example, “sudden threats” to human health and emergencies will need to be reported to both the EPA and local authorities. Include notification expectations in your response procedures.
Spills can be dangerous and expensive, and certainly should be avoided at all costs. Making sure that these five essential elements are part of your spill response plan is merely the first step of many in doing what you can to reduce the likelihood of their occurrence. For more information on spills or emergency spill response, call Medical Waste Experts today at 877-977-6518.
(This article originally appeared on the Hazardous Waste Experts blog.)