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Spill training: Incidental or emergency?

Scenario: Paint thinner is spilled in an art studio, and the janitor, Charlotte, is called from outside the immediate release area to mop it up. As a manager, you are walking by the studio and can smell the faint scent of paint thinner and see the artists congregating just outside the studio. You peek inside the studio to see Charlotte already cleaning up the spill with a mop.

You recall she has Hazard Communication training, and she knows the hazards of paint thinner, so this gives you comfort. Charlotte’s also wearing personal protective equipment per the safety data sheet and recent training on “PPE.” However, an unsettling thought crosses your mind that gives you pause — she does not have HAZWOPER emergency response training.

Did Charlotte, in this case, need emergency response training to clean up the paint thinner spill? What do you think?

Yes. The release is an emergency response because Charlotte, a janitor, came from outside the immediate area.

No. The release is incidental and is not considered an emergency response solely because Charlotte, a janitor, came from outside the immediate area.

Click below to see the answer.

Spill training: Incidental or emergency?: Answer

Answer: Incidental releases of hazardous substances that are routinely cleaned up by those from outside the immediate release area need not be considered emergency responses solely because the employees responsible for cleanup come from outside the immediate release area. The janitor does not have to respond in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.120; although, the janitor would be expected to understand the hazards associated with paint thinner through Hazard Communication training. Proper personal protective equipment training is also required if such equipment is needed.

See the definition of incidental releases inside the definition of emergency response at 29 CFR 1910.120(a)(3). The definition of emergency response says, “Emergency response or responding to emergencies means a response effort by employees from outside the immediate release area or by other designated responders (i.e., mutual-aid groups, local fire departments, etc.) to an occurrence which results, or is likely to result, in an uncontrolled release of a hazardous substance. Responses to incidental releases of hazardous substances where the substance can be absorbed, neutralized, or otherwise controlled at the time of release by employees in the immediate release area, or by maintenance personnel are not considered to be emergency responses within the scope of this standard. Responses to releases of hazardous substances where there is no potential safety or health hazard (i.e., fire, explosion, or chemical exposure) are not considered to be emergency responses.”