Hazardous material spills happen. They can occur as a result of negligence, natural causes, or due to a deliberate criminal act.
No matter the cause of hazardous spills, it is imperative that you and your organisation develop a chemical emergency framework.
The emergency plan should outline in clear terms what the steps are in case of a spill and what roles each team member is to play to mitigate the impact of the spill.
Here are some ways to proactively prepare for emergency hazardous material spills.
Table of Contents
Pre-emergency spill phase:
Assess your organization’s risk factors
The first thing is to assess your organisation’s risk of hazardous material spills.
During the assessment, you want to identify potential triggers:
- Do you use hazardous chemicals in your processes?
- How many people will be exposed in case of a spill?
- What part of the business premise is expected to be contaminated with hazardous material?
- Are there safety measures in place?
- Are your staff well trained on how to handle these hazardous materials?
- Do they know what to do if a spill occurs?
While these questions are not exhaustive, it offers a solid starting point to begin the assessment.
Your answers to the questions will give you an idea to what degree your business is likely to experience hazardous spills, and the overall readiness of your organisation to mitigate the impact in case a spill occurs.
Create a proactive response plan
This step involves drafting an active response plan in case of a spill. Strive to make the plan as detailed as possible.
Think of all the different scenarios that could potentially play out if a spill occurs and workout a safety response for your organisation.
Include clear descriptions of what each team member is expected to do in case of a spill. It could be as simple as assembling at a designated place.
Your emergency response plan should include procedures that make the safety of lives a priority.
While the initial response in your plan will be about securing lives and property, a subsequent plan of action should include instructions on how to respond to spill cleanup and information around the disposal.
Here’s a couple of things your response plan should include:
- Emergency contact information could be both internal and external
- A list of proper clothing and safety equipment for cleanup
- A detailed description of what each piece of equipment is for and how to use them
- Directions to designated evacuation points
- Information about fire extinguishers and their location
- First aid procedures and how to administer them
Your staff need to be continuously trained on the proper response in case of an emergency spill. The training usually includes how to respond in an emergency and the appropriate use of spill kits.
The training for spill kits should be hands-on with clear instructions on how to use each item during an emergency.
For most organisations, periodic emergency drills might be needed to help employees fully grasp what is expected of them in an emergency.
In the same vein, you also want to review and update the response manual regularly to ensure accurate information.
During an emergency spill
Identification of hazards
When a spill occurs, the first line of action is usually to identify what risks are present. Hopefully, by now, your employees are adequately trained to identify these hazards when they occur.
Information gathered during the identification phase will determine what other containment and cleanup protocols to initiate.
After the spill phase
Once an emergency spill is contained and cleaned up, you want to investigate and report what led to the spill and what can be done to ensure it never happens again.
Your response plan should include a section about standard reporting and which team member is responsible for implementing the recommendations to prevent future spills.
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