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Preparing for and preventing spills
- SDSs, container labels, and DOT’S ERG can help in preparing for spills at a facility.
- Before properly preparing for a spill response, know exactly what the potential for spills is: what hazards are present; where they are located; and what will be required to deal with the hazards in an emergency situation.
Preparing for spills
When preparing for spills at a facility, first determine the types and amounts of hazardous substances at the location and their hazards. Then refer to the following resources for more information:
- Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). SDSs contain the most current and accurate information on hazardous substances. SDSs provide first-aid, fire-fighting, and accidental release measures along with recommended personal protective equipment.
- Container labels and other markings. Container labels often indicate spill response protocols.
- The Department of Transportation’s (DOT's) Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG). The ERG can help identify chemical hazards, determine isolation distances, select proper protective clothing, and understand the fire and spill control steps that work best for the particular substance.
It's important to take steps to prevent spills in the first place, because that is the most effective action that can be taken.
To prevent spills, keep the following in mind:
- Use containers suitable for the hazardous substance stored. (For example, avoid storing a corrosive liquid in a metal container.)
- Do not store hazardous substances in areas prone to flooding or in areas where a leak could reach surface or ground waters.
- Keep all machinery, processes, and equipment that use hazardous substances in good working order.
- Follow the substance manufacturer's instructions and/or the SDS for safe handling and storage.
- Train employees who transfer substances to know the container's capacity, to transfer slowly, and not to “top off.”
- Pre-deploy drain covers and sorbent materials prior to transfers where the operation is located close to drainage structures or navigable waters.
- Provide overfill protection (e.g., high-level alarms or audible vents) for containers that store hazardous substances.
- Provide appropriate secondary containment, such as a dike or remote impoundment for bulk storage containers. The secondary containment should hold the full capacity of the primary container plus possible rainfall. A dike could be constructed of concrete or some other impervious material. A double-walled tank may be considered secondary containment.
- Add other secondary containment, such as drip-pans or curbs, to catch the most likely spill when transferring substances to and from containers or to and from mobile refuelers or tanker trucks.
- Regularly inspect and test containers and pipes. Visually inspect aboveground equipment according to industry standards. Buried pipes should be leak tested when they're installed or repaired. Include a written record of the inspection in the written spill plan, if applicable.
Audit for spill potential
Before properly preparing for a spill response, know exactly what the potential for spills is: what hazards are present; where they are located; and what will be required to deal with the hazards in an emergency situation. This requires a thorough audit of the facility.
Do a “top to bottom” search. Begin with a complete chemical inventory. This is necessary to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard also. Once this information is compiled, use it to determine spill potential.
J. J. Keller is the trusted source for DOT / Transportation, OSHA / Workplace Safety, Human Resources, Construction Safety and Hazmat / Hazardous Materials regulation compliance products and services. J. J. Keller helps you increase safety awareness, reduce risk, follow best practices, improve safety training, and stay current with changing regulations.