A spill on the floor can be a minor inconvenience, or it could cause serious disruption to your day. In the worst-case scenario, chemical spills in the workplace can cause bodily harm or property damage.
Accordingly, you should always have a plan in place for what you will do if a spill happens and how you will clean up the mess so that no one is harmed. All spills are different so this is not a definitive guide, but it does offer a planning framework for you to follow. Read on to learn each step and we'll include a link to a free downloadable copy that you can display in your workplace.
Preparation is key to managing a spill safely and quickly. Start by evaluating all the materials you have on-site and ensure they are clearly labelled. When it comes to hazardous chemicals, keep relevant Safety Data Sheets (SDS) nearby. Minimise the volume of materials and always store and handle them according to manufacturer recommendations.
Equip employees with the necessary spill response equipment and personal protective equipment such as active disinfectant wipes, paper towels, protective gloves, face masks, PPE, etc.
Proper training on what to do in the event of a spill is also important.
Never put place employees in a position with unnecessary risk. If there is fire risk or toxic chemical, call the emergency services. Speak to witnesses to identify the material and evaluate if it's necessary to wear appropriate PPE.
Stop the source
Identify the source of the spill — was it caused by tipping a storage container or it could be continuously pumping? To stop the source of the spill, attempt to rotate punctured drums, plug leaks and close valves or tapes if safe to do so.
Protect the stormwater drain
The stormwater drain is just for rain and chemical spills into the system can have dangerous ecological effects. If a spill is running towards a stormwater drain, use drain covers, shut-off valves or pipe bings to block it from entering. Alternatively, confine or divert the spill with spill berms, socks, sandbags or other suitable materials.
The sooner action is made to clean up the spill and prevent further disruption, the better. Instruct employees to notify their supervisor, site foreman or manager as soon as the situation occurs so it can begin to be rectified. If necessary, alert your regional council so they can take any necessary steps to protect the civil network as well as regulatory bodies or emergency services.
Neutralise hazardous substances where necessary using manufacturer recommended methods. Use absorbents to clean up spilt liquids and place them into a suitable container or bag. In situations where there has been a large volume spill, you may need to hire the services of a sucker truck. Ensure there are no remaining residues leftover and no contamination has been made to the stormwater system or soil.
Toxic chemical spills require specialised disposal. In some cases, it may be possible to leave the spill undisturbed until emergency services arrive on site.
Once under control, contact a responsible waste disposal contractor to remove the contaminated material, absorbents, soil and PPE. They can ensure that all dangerous material is properly labelled and disposed of in accordance with the relevant legislation.
Restock & Review
After the spill has been managed, immediately rinse equipment and containers and replace all used absorbents and PPE. Review the cause of the incident, complete any forms and take any necessary steps to mitigate future risks — this may involve implementing new processes or procedures and communicating them to your team.
Let us help you reduce the costs of chemical spills in the workplace
Chemical spills in the workplace can be detrimental to business operations, reputation and productivity. Creating a workplace that reduces the risk of spills is essential to both worker safety and the bottom line.
So how can prepare your workplace for a spill situation? Speak to a specialist. Gallagher Bassett is an expert in workplace safety and we can consult with you to reduce the risk of spills, as well as a host of other workplace injury and accident claims.
Our experienced team can assist your business to anticipate and manage risk factors that lead to injuries. Furthermore, we also aim to simplify worker's claims legislation for your business.
And prepare your team members too! Download our free "Spill Response Guide" poster to educate them on how to effectively respond to spills.
To reduce the costs associated with workplace injury claims by up to 60%, request a free portfolio analysis and see how we can help your company.