What to do in the event of a chemical spill
The storing and handling of chemicals is an integral part of the work routine in many laboratory and industrial settings. However, proper chemical spill containment and cleanup practices are vital to the prevention of environmental damage and injuries when hazardous chemical spills do occur.
Depending on the type of chemicals being used, the work environment should be designed to promote rapid response to accidental spills. Individuals who come in contact with hazardous materials need to shower for at least 15 minutes immediately after exposure, so the proper facilities should be in close proximity. It is important to set up bund walls, which are usually made of steel, concrete or brick, to automatically contain leaks from tanks and pipes, while also placing supply cabinets with chemical spill kits in areas that are easily accessible. In occupational settings, employees should also be issued guides with detailed instructions for handling chemical spills.
In most cases, the appropriate response tactics will be determined by a risk assessment. A risk assessment considers factors such as the type of chemical, the amount spilled and the spill locations to decide on the best method of containment. For example, depending on circumstances, immediate cleanup or temporary isolation of the affected area may be suggested. The level risk also determines the type of personal protective equipment (PPE) the cleanup crew will need. PPE gear typically ranges from levels A to D, with level D representing the lowest protection and level A reserved for high-risk situations requiring skin, eye, mucous membrane and respiratory protection (including a self-contained breathing device).
PPE materials should be easily accessible; it's best to include them in chemical spill kits that also contain other useful components, such as vermiculite for absorbing hazard liquids, plastic bags and a 5-gallon pail for containment and disposal. Items in chemical spill kits may differ to accommodate the specific chemicals being used, so it is up to employers to decide whether to buy commercial kits or assemble custom kits on-site.
Safe chemical storage significantly reduces the risk of harmful spills. All chemicals should be clearly labeled with details about its specific properties, the hazards it presents and corresponding cleanup instructions. Chemical storage areas should also be well-ventilated with acid-resistant shelving. Chemicals that could be volatile if combined should be stored far away from one another. If employees are well-educated on how to manage these substances, workplace accidents can be minimized. Also, always dispose of hazardous waste according to local laws and guidelines.
Why Is Chemical Spill Containment Essential for Safety?
- Toxic materials that are not properly contained can come into contact with property and cause contamination or damage.
- Individuals exposed to dangerous chemicals can suffer serious injuries, such as blindness, cardiovascular and respiratory difficulties, neurological damage and various forms of cancer.
- The release of flammable chemicals can result in harmful explosions or fires.
Things to Consider When Dealing with Chemical Spills
- What level of personal protective equipment is required to handle chemicals safely?
- What special procedures are required to clean up the spill?
Top Brands of Chemical Spill Kits
- Lab Safety Supply chemical spill kits
- SpillSolv chemical spill kits
- Clearspill chemical spill kits