Companies that handle hazardous materials can minimize the risk of employee illness, injury, and fatalities by implementing a rigorous chemical spill response.
In the U.S., the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that workers are consistently injured or suffer illness at a rate of 2.8 for every 100 full-time team members. But high-risk environments posted a 2-percent increase in workplace deaths from 2017-2018 and a reported 5,250 hard-working people lost their lives as a result of on-the-job accidents.
Chemical spillage can result in skin burns, impaired vision, blindness, and incapacitate everyday people unless contained. Ethical companies that put life ahead of profits would be wise to develop a chemical spill response plan that ensures valued staffers complete their shift without incident and return safely home to their families.
How To Be Prepared For A Chemical Spill Emergency
Whether your company manages hazardous chemicals in a laboratory setting, manufacturing operation, and handles transportation, a seasoned professional recognizes that some form of a chemical spill is inevitable. There are simply too many moving parts to account for every workplace scenario. And, frankly, human error tends to be the primary cause of many accidents.
The fact that a team knowingly works with high-risk material remains inconsequential to the reality that people lose concentration, knock things over, and make critical missteps that put themselves and others in harm’s way. That being said, a chemical spill cleanup can be either a routine practice or a crisis. The difference depends on an organization’s preparedness and decision-making.
To achieve a level of competence in which workplace safety is not necessarily diminished when chemicals escape from protective containers, management teams and frontline employees must craft a chemical spill procedure. It’s also essential for all key stakeholders to be intimately familiar with procedures and best practices.
Develop A Chemical Spill Response Plan
The inherent success of an organization’s chemical response plan requires these critical steps. Gather a committee that includes department heads, chemical specialists, and frontline workers who manage materials on a regular basis. Meet to discuss chemical risk-factors and grow a working knowledge about materials. Draft a chemical spill procedure that directly addresses those hazardous items. Then, backtrack and ensure that every team member has access to the personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary for prompt cleanup and safety. Consider these questions when assessing a chemical agent’s threat level.
- What are the consequences of a spill?
- Are the materials flammable, corrosive, toxic to touch, or inhibit breathing?
- Does interaction with air, water, or other products increase danger during cleanup?
- What types of necessary PPE are required?
- How much PPE inventory should the company stock at all times?
Many outfits find that both verbally articulating chemical spill risks and cleanup guidelines in the workplace and publishing a manual provide top-tier communication between management and employees. These are common chemical spill protocols that belong in a chemical spill clean up procedure and safety manual.
- An extensive list of PPE used for cleanup.
- A thorough list of protective clothing worn during the cleanup.
- Clearly defined evacuation areas, routes, and exits.
- Procedures for chemical spill evacuations.
- Location suppression equipment.
- Detailed instruction about using suppression equipment.
- Location of first aid materials and appropriate applications.
- Location and proper use of containers for chemical cleanup.
- Location and proper use of containers for disposing of protective clothing.
A detailed safety policy can only be effective if all of the necessary equipment is onsite and easily accessible in the event of an incident. This usually tasks the safety group with delivering a detailed list of necessary PPE products and quantities to upper management.
Prepare Extensive Chemical Spill Cleanup PPE Inventory
Organization leaders in charge of purchasing PPE would be well-served to order in bulk. Many of the chemical spill PPE items are single-use only. Plentiful stockpiles ensure that secondary contamination does not occur. It also means that purchasing orders need to account for outfitting team members involved in the cleanup, everyday safety clothing, and the possibility that additional personnel may be needed and outfitted if a crisis persists. These are common PPE and disposable clothing items found in chemical spillage cleanup lists.
- One- or Two-Piece Splash Resistant Clothing.
- Facemasks and Breathing Apparatus.
- Protective Gloves & Eye Protections.
- Certified Footwear and Disposable Coverings.
- Disposable Coveralls & Aprons.
Operations that work with hazardous chemical agents often create spill kits that include these and other safety products. Organizations often opt to order certified one-size-fits-all clothing or label kits according to individual body type and clothing sizes.
It's essential that companies verify that a viable stock of PPE and disposable clothing are on hand before specialists begin a cleanup. These products should also undergo routine ongoing inspection and co-workers are advised to check each other’s safety equipment for loose fits, unsecured seams, or tears.
Chemical Spill Emergency Response Plan
Decisions to engage in prompt cleanup with trained onsite personnel or call in HazMat units are driven by health and safety factors. For example, chemicals that could ignite and trap people in a blaze may be better left to the highest level of professionals. Spills that pose a limited threat may be appropriate for your in-house specialists to tackle. That is as long as they adhere to stringent guidelines and following through on top-tier chemical spill protocols.
Evaluate Potential Health Risks and Damage
There are typically three measures to consider before engaging in cleanup — human impact, property damage, and threats to the environment.
The impact on human life and health stands above all other factors. Decision-makers must consider whether they are dealing with a leak that workforces are well-prepared to manage or a heightened threat. Spills that pose a clear and present danger call for an evacuation.
Property damage remains a consideration only if human health and safety are not a significant risk. Containing a spill to prevent corrosion and a potential domino effect are strong drivers.
When small and moderate spill quantities are involved, environmental cleanup can usually be conducted following containment. It’s never in a workforce's best interest to rush into danger because environmental cleanup will be expensive.
Cleanup leadership personnel must make quick decisions about whether to effect immediate cleanup or wait for an offsite response team. The choices made will determine whether healthy outcomes are achieved or valued team members are hospitalized.
Immediate Chemical Spill Response and Emergency Actions
When prompt containment and cleanup is appropriate, crews should be trained to methodically mitigate risk. It’s simply not advisable to mop up hazardous liquid and dispose of it. That being said, these are factors frontlines workers need to consider about chemical spillage.
- Minimize the Risk of Dust and Vapors Spreads.
- Neutralize Compounds with Acidic Bases.
- Contain the Agent’s Spread.
- Absorb Liquid & Dispose Safely.
- Collect All Residue and Moisture.
- Decontaminate Spill Zone and Surrounding Area.
- Follow Chemical Disposal Procedures.
- Follow PPE Removals and Sanitization Procedures.
An intelligently crafted chemical spill emergency response plan diligently removes threats. A successful plan enjoys every worker going home at the end of their shift to loved ones without incident.
Chemical threat safety working groups typically need to make recommendations to the organization’s purchasing department. The PPE and disposable clothing must meet or exceed the highest industry standards to protect everyday people from chemical agents. These are two products widely used in chemical cleanups.
- ChemSplash 1: This one-piece disposable protective suit covers workers from the neckline to the ankles. It is rated to protect against harsh chemical impacts and protect workers from potential skin contact. The innovative suit allows inner moisture to exit while insulating against penetrations.
- ChemSplash 2: This product enjoys lightweight flexibility and also covers neck to ankle. One of the prevalent reasons companies select this product is that it supports worker agility during a crisis.
These and other International Enviro Guard products are industry leaders in chemical splash, spill, and cleanup protection. The company also supplies laboratories, manufacturers, and other organizations with complete lines of personal protective clothing and accessories.