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Here at J.J. Keller we often say it is not if a spill will occur but when. You might be compliant with all the relevant regulations and a spill may still occur. You need to be ready to respond safely and efficiently no matter your industry. Building a spill kit will ensure that you are prepared to contain the spill. This will limit the safety and environmental hazards you may encounter related to spill incidents.

Regulatory requirements

There are both OSHA and EPA requirements related to preventing and responding to spills, but it is important to note that the regulations do not require specific materials or quantities for a spill kit. OSHA provides guidance for worksites to have industry-standard programs in place for managing and disposing of hazardous waste including spills. And spills kits are a best practice under EPA’s Spill Prevention Countermeasures and Control rule. OSHA’s guidance requires training for employees who handle and control hazardous waste. They must also have the appropriate personal protective equipment and be trained to properly operate any equipment used in spill response and containment.

Types of spill kits

Spill kit materials are designed for certain materials. Some of the main types of spill kits include:

  • Oil Spills - These spill kits are designed for the absorption of hydrocarbons. They repel water and are often used for spill response and containment in waterbodies. They are generally designed for both indoor and outdoor use.
  • Hazardous Chemicals - These kits are designed to handle aggressive chemicals that may or may not be oil-based. They can also be used to clean up hydrocarbon spills.
  • Universal – These kits are designed to have wide applicability. Although they may be used for water-based spills, typically they are not well suited for containment in waterbodies or with aggressive chemicals.
  • Specialty – These kits are designed for specific spills such as battery acids, biohazards, mercury, etc. They will have special absorbents based on the intended target. For example, a battery acid spill kit will likely contain absorbent with a chemical neutralizer.

What to include in the spill kit?

When considering the contents of your spill kit you should think about the following:

  • Type - Is it an oil spill, hazardous material, or biohazard? Consider the state of the material and the rate at which it may spread.
  • Size - Ensure that you have a handle on the largest volume of product that could be released at any given time.
  • Location – Assess potential areas and operations at your facility where a spill might occur.

Although spill kits are designed for certain spills, they should all contain a few fundamental pieces. These are your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), sorbents, and clean-up items. PPE commonly used in spill response includes gloves, shoe covers, face, and eye protection. Chemical spill kits should also include a lab coat, respiratory protection, and a corrosive resistant apron. Absorbents are materials that absorb and contain a spill. This includes cloths, mops, sorbent socks, loose powders, etc. Clean-up equipment includes a dustpan or rubber shovel and containment bags for used PPE. Often the materials come in a container that is large enough to contain the potential spill.

A rule of thumb in the industry is that an appropriately sized spill kit is generally good for spills of approximately 100 gallons. For larger spills, you will likely need to consider alternative response methods such as a vacuum truck.

Sizing the spill kit

Now that you have selected the type of kit you need and the key elements, you need to assess the size of the spill kit you need. The size of your spill kit will be governed by the size of the spill you are likely to encounter, as well as other site conditions. For example, do you have multiple areas that might potentially have small spills? In this case, you might consider multiple bucket-sized spill kits in various locations close to the potential sources. Or do you have one area with the potential for a large spill? In that case, a large stationary spill kit might be more appropriate.

Benefits of using a spill kit

From a safety perspective, spill kits can help to reduce employee exposure to hazardous releases as well as reduce the potential for slips and falls. From an environmental standpoint spill containment prevents discharges to waterways and pervious surfaces. In general, it reduces risk and is easily incorporated as a part of a response plan.

Key to remember: You might be compliant with all the relevant regulations and a spill may still occur. You need to be ready to respond safely and efficiently no matter your industry. Building a spill kit will ensure that you are prepared to contain the spill.