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Responding to small vs. large spills
  • Have a number of small spill control stations located in areas where spills most commonly occur.
  • If the potential exists for a large chemical incident, then consider a permanent spill response wagon or cart.

Response to small spills

In most industrial settings, spills can occur in a variety of locations — at loading docks, chemical storage rooms, where the chemical is used, or anywhere in the facility when the substance is transported. Most spills are minor, requiring minimal, yet timely cleanup. Having one large spill cart to address the needs of all locations is not always the best solution.

Rather, a more logical approach is to have a number of small spill control stations located in areas where spills most commonly occur. This way, time will not be lost while someone has to leave the area to bring the large spill cart to the spill site.

Most commercially available spill control stations are compact cabinets, filled with the necessary cleanup supplies that emergency response personnel would need in a chemical spill emergency. Suggested contents for a small spill kit include:

  • A number of universal absorbent pillows designed to soak up at least a quart of liquid.
  • A number of absorbent pads for small cleanups.
  • Several dozen disposal bags, along with labels and tags for proper marking.
  • Several protective coveralls.
  • Several pairs of splash goggles.
  • Several pairs of protective gloves.

While the above items can be used on the majority of spills, some of the chemicals in the facility may require targeted cleanup materials. Some companies offer kits that are designed for specific spill control needs, such as mercury, acid and base spills, and accidents involving trucks and terminals, laboratories, and chemical preparatory rooms.

Response to large spills

If the potential exists for a large chemical incident, then consider a permanent spill response wagon or cart. This would be stocked with more response equipment than the spill response stations contain. A well-equipped spill cart is not only insurance against the unexpected but has the added benefit of increasing employee confidence in the company's desire to protect the community and the environment.

Spill carts should be selected to fit operations. They should be easily moved from one site to another. A permanent central storage location should be chosen. All employees should know where the cart is kept. Anyone who could be expected to respond to an emergency should have thorough training in the use of everything on the cart. After every use, the cart should be restocked and returned to its permanent location as soon as possible.

The following items, at a minimum, should be included in a well-stocked spill cart:

  • An adequate number of protective suits or coveralls
  • Gloves
  • Boots
  • Splash aprons
  • Goggles
  • Several types of fire extinguishers
  • Absorbent pillows
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Disposal bags
  • Mop and plastic bucket
  • Non-sparking shovel
  • “Hazardous Area” warning/barricade
  • Hazardous/nonhazardous waste labels
  • Air purifying respirators, with acid and organic cartridges (Note: If potential spills would require the use of respirators, there are many additional regulations that apply. For instance, employees must be fit-tested and trained in the company's personal protective equipment (PPE) program. See 29 CFR 1910.134.)
  • Containment boom
  • Overpack drum

Obviously, the contents of the spill cart will vary according to the needs of each operation. When stocking and restocking the supplies, often money can be saved by purchasing items at a local hardware store. After all, a broom is a broom. Spark resistant equipment is simply made of plastic or rubber and can be bought locally for a fraction of the price suggested by some outlets.

But be careful not to compromise safety by substituting equipment or supplies that do not meet the same safety standards.