Hazardous Spill Emergency Response – How it Works

Most every type of company has hazardous chemicals and every employee should know what to do in an emergency or cleanup situation. There are specific procedures and specific employees assigned to those procedures. If done correctly, these procedures can save lives, injury and property.

In most cases the first person to report a spill is an awareness-level responder who does not participate in the actual cleanup. Once it is reported the Incident Commander takes over insuring the proper procedures are implemented.

As soon as possible an employee who is authorized to come in close contact to the spill cordons off the spill site with warning signs and or caution tape. If the spill occurs indoors the responder should immediately seal off air ducts and open doors and windows to the outside to allow the vapors to dissipate.

Next, the responding employee should place barriers like absorbents around the spill to prevent it from spreading. Common materials used for this are urethane, PVC or absorbent socks made of polypropylene. Socks both block and absorb the hazardous spill and must be thrown out as hazardous waste. Flexible barriers on the other hand only block spills and do not absorb. They can be decontaminated and reused. Sandbags are not meant to absorb hazardous materials and should never be used in cleanup. It is extremely important that the diking keep the materials from running into storm drains or sewers and contaminated the environment.

At this point, a HAZMAT Technician takes over. The first process is characterizing the spill site by determining the chemicals in the spill and then determining the hazards. This characterization is done by using direct reading instruments that provide quick information on environmental conditions. There are a variety of instruments that can be used including combustible gas monitors, detector tubes and field survey meters. The technician should also be on the lookout for open pits and piles of material that could be unstable.

Once the site has been characterized, the commander will determine if the spill requires special handling and then order the proper handling procedures. Most of the time an absorbent compound is spread over the spill. These compounds are usually granular in form and soak up materials. They are inert and cannot react to the chemicals they are absorbing. Next, disposable, absorbent blankets are added which are also inert to absorb the remaining material. These blankets and compounds are then shoveled into an OSHA approved container for disposal.

Although this process is routine most of the time, however if a material is flammable or around electricity special precautions should be used when shoveling – such as non-sparking gloves and turning off all electronic equipment before cleanup.

Lastly, the contaminated material is transported to an EPA approved hazardous materials center where it is treated and reused or made non-hazardous and sent to a landfill.

After a spillBusiness Management Articles, everyone involved has to undergo decontamination procedures. The employees go through stations where their PPE is washed and they are washed thoroughly with water and detergent. This washing solution is then disposed of and the worker takes a shower. At this point the cleanup process is complete.

In a hazardous spill situation everyone has a job. Learn yours thoroughly so you are in a position to help your facility avoid injuries and complete the cleanup effectively.

Article Tags: Hazardous Spill

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