It's a fact: spills can and do happen. How well the incident is planned for before it happens, how well it is handled both during and after the spill is vital to avoiding workplace injury and maintaining well-being of employees.
OSHA requires all workplaces where employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals to have a written plan to deal with spills. The written plan must deal with what each employee is doing in the workplace and his potential for exposure to hazardous chemicals. A plan may be made for a workplace with 10 employees using 1 or 2 chemicals or for a factory with hundreds of employees using a variety of hazardous chemicals. The plan basics are the same - just as the goals are the same; to minimize injuries, damage, downtime, and OSHA penalties.
Some of the reasons for spills are:
- Improper handling of the chemical in the warehouse, the laboratory, or the worksite
- Chemical containers punctured by forklifts
- Lids not closed tightly
- Improper storage methods
- Employee carelessness
Planning ways of dealing with a chemical spill is essential to protect employees, to avoid a release to the environment, or a fire or some other form of property damage. The first step in developing a plan is:
- Identify all of the chemicals in use.
- Identify employees who are responsible for different aspects of the program.
- Complete a hazard assessment for each chemical that is in use.
- Compile a list of the hazardous chemicals and obtain MSDS sheets for each.
- Label the chemicals with the appropriate health and safety hazard notations (flammable, corrosive, etc.).
- Develop a plan for the control and cleanup of chemical spills.
- Ensure that there is a spill control and clean up plan for each hazardous chemical in use.
- Obtain an adequate amount of control and cleanup supplies that are suitable for each chemical and the area in which they are used (indoors or outside).
- Obtain an adequate amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) for all employees who would need it.
- Develop a training program for the use of PPE.
- Develop a plan for monitoring inventory cleanup supplies and replace as needed.
- Develop a training program for all employees and ensure that it is updated regularly or when any new hazardous chemicals are added.
If a large volume of chemicals are used in the workplace, emergency procedures must be developed as well as cleanup plans. This should include:
- Escape procedures and escape route assignments
- Establishment of an emergency communication center
- Special procedures for employees who perform critical procedures or are responsible for plant shutdown
- Special assignments for medical teams and rescue operations
- Methods for reporting fire or other emergencies
- Systems to account for all employees after evacuation
- Development of an updated list of all responsible employees and their phone numbers
- Effective security measures to prevent unauthorized access and protect records, etc.
- Develop an effective documentation plan for training, handling a chemical spill, emergency procedures, and evacuation.
- Determine which federal, state and local statutes apply to chemicals used in your facility and what information must be reported.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of the plan.
Nobody expects an emergency or disaster but they can happen anywhere, anytime and can strike anyone. Planning outlines steps that must be taken to deal with an emergency effectively. Thorough training ensures that these plans work smoothly when they are needed.