In laboratories and other environments with chemicals, spills are bound to happen. So, in these instances, what should a team do for adequate, compliant preparation? First, every workplace needs a spill kit, one including all components to contain and fully clean up any substance, and all workers must be trained on cleanup procedures and use of equipment.
Quick cleanup of a chemical spill is obligatory to prevent injuries, fires, environmental hazards, contamination, or illness. In the event of such a spill, workers must heed to OSHA 29 CFR 1910, 40 CFR 112, 251, and 264 and be prepared with appropriate personal protective equipment and kits containing universal, oil-only, or hazmat absorbents.
To start spill cleanup, all individuals need to leave the area, unless he or she has been contaminated. If contamination, or chemical exposure, has occurred, such individuals need to go through decontamination procedures, which include washing, scraping, or flushing the chemical for a number of minutes. In these cases, the substance will be removed or diluted, but medical attention, depending upon severity, may be needed.
However, if a flammable substance has spilled, the area must be ventilated, and all sources of fire, such as objects that can spark, must be controlled.
Before the spill kit is deployed, determine the chemical type: is it an acid, a base, or a hazardous substance? The MSDS will provide guidance in this regards. Cleanup procedures vary with each type of chemical, and if an acid has indeed spilled, it must first be neutralized. A neutralizer included in a spill kit is applied from the perimeter inward to avoid splashing, and once the substance has changed color, its pH is neutral.
Aside from this step, the rest of spill cleanup procedures are similar. Utilizing absorbents and other supplies from the spill kit, workers protect drains and other openings to the environment with socks, which stop the spread of the chemical. To clean up the substance, workers add a loose absorbent from the outside inward. The liquid should then take on a gel-like consistency, making it easier to brush and pick up.
Depending upon the size of the spill, polyethylene bags, five-gallon pails, or 20-gallon drums with polyethylene liners can be used to hold the substance for disposal. One or more of these options is included with a spill kit. Once all has been scooped up and contained, the bag, pail, or drum should be labeled and then be placed in a hood or ventilated area for disposal.