Hazardous materials spills occur in many workplaces, both in the United States and around the world. Is your workplace ready to handle a possible spill?
The Environmental Protection Agency requires that businesses have a plan to prevent and clean up workplace spills. Although many organizations have at least a framework of a solid spill prevention control and countermeasure plan, or SPCC, in place, it may not be up to date.
Now is the perfect time to update your workplace’s rules and guidelines to ensure that your worksite is properly protected and that its staff is trained and prepared to deal with a possible spill. Remember, spills in the workplace don’t just cause hazards from slips and fall: exposure to the spilled material can be dangerous, especially if the material is accidentally released into the environment.
So, what should you do now? Follow these four steps and tips to ensure that your spill clean-up policy is up to date and right for your needs:
1. Consider your worksite. Do you need to be prepared for a possible acid spill cleanup? Could you possibly have to contain fuel spills? The most important part of any spill clean up is being prepared to handle it, and to handle it properly.This means you need to identifyi what could spill on your worksite and determine what accidents are most likely to happen – then work hard to prevent them.
2. Make sure your daily operating procedures help to prevent spills. Has your worksite changed somehow since you originally wrote your spill response policy? Are people trained to check that items are being properly stored? Are materials being stored too close to where employees move around, making your workspace more dangerous? Are you moving materials using a method that is both efficient and safe? Questions like these highlight that workplaces need good work procedures that make the workspace both safe and functional. Remember, while training is important, every part of your operation, not just staff, should contribute to a safer work environment. Being proactive in preventing spills by taking measures to prevent them in every possible way is considered the best way to deal with oil or chemical spills.
3. DO make sure your employees are properly trained. Proper operating procedures are important, but they’re still not a guarantee against accidents and spills. That’s why it’s essential to ensure that employees are up-to-date on spill response procedures as part of your spill response plan. This includes training staff on the correct spill response techniques; clean up methods; correct equipment and usage; and safe disposal. Employees need to know when they can safely clean a spill themselves, and when they need to potentially call a supervisor or outside resource for assistance.
4. Keep adequate response equipment and spill kits onsite for every possible situation — and make sure they’re easily accessible. After evaluating your worksite and tailoring your daily operations and training, the next step in preparing to deal with a possible spill is keeping the proper materials onsite at all times. Depending on where you work, this could involve full body suits, or it might require one small spill kit. Of course, if your tools can’t be easily reached in an emergency situation, you may as well not have them – so keep them easy to reach and make sure employees know where they’re located.
While the process of developing a solid spill response policy can take time, money and energy, it is a worthwhile — and legally required — investment. As you begin reviewing, updating or developing your spill response policy, we recommend using resources from organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA has a great list of resources that worksites can use to help in training and policy development. Checklists, training pamphlets and educational brochures like these will help ensure that you develop the right policy for your worksite and business.