7 Strategies for Spill Prevention and Containment in the Workplace
Today, we’re going to share 7 simple ways to conduct a spill prevention and containment audit at your facility.
In fact, these are some of the same strategies we use at ITU AbsorbTech as part of our Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan.
These strategies apply to any non-hazardous liquid, oil, solvent, or industrial process fluid you may encounter in your workplace.
Let’s get started.
Know the Regulations
Spills are heavily regulated by EPA and OSHA. Some of the major compliance regulations include Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER; OSHA), RCRA Parts 243 and 265 (EPA), and the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Rule (SPCC; EPA).
For a deep dive into spill compliance and regulations, please reference the Top 8 Spill Regulations.
Whether or not these regulations apply to your facility, you can use these seven strategies to improve spill prevention and containment for your facility.
1. Explore Ways to Use Less (Source Reduction)
Simply put, the less fluid you use, the less likely you are to have a significant (high-volume) spill.
Source reduction is sometimes referred to as pollution prevention or waste prevention.
Lean and 6S projects can help support this initiative. Assemble a team to come up with solutions to minimize the volume of vagrant fluids generated at your facility. Some examples include upgrading process equipment, training employees to reduce inefficiencies, upgrading raw material to generate less waste, and working with suppliers for well-timed deliveries.
Collaborate with suppliers and partners for more innovative solutions.
2. Maintain and Inspect Equipment
Maintenance personnel should inspect all equipment regularly to keep things in good working order and report their audits in an inspection log. Issues should be reported to the safety manager.
Consider developing your own preventative maintenance (PM) program.
A good PM program will identify all components, establish a timeframe for monitoring and repairing components, and include good recordkeeping.
Here are a few things you and/or maintenance should look for at each inspection:
- Equipment in good working condition
- Any leaks or holes in hoses, seams, valves, or containment basins
- Drip marks
- Tight connections
- Spraying / Splashing
- Slow drips
- Pooling / puddling
- Tracking (to other machines / walkways / departments)
3. Assess your Spill History
Review the history of both spills and slips/trips/falls for each machine, work area, and walk area in your facility. Develop an appropriate action plan based on your findings.
Not all spills are documented. Sometimes, only OSHA and EPA reportable spills are documented. However, there are other ways to determine the history of spills in your facility. For example, you can review how many absorbents or spill kits are utilized in each area of your facility. Here are some ways to accomplish that:
- Any time a spill kit is used, this should be reported to the safety manager.
- If you use a managed oil absorbent service like SorbIts®, you can get reports showing utilization by machine or staging area.
- Talk to the machine operators to get more information on absorbent usage, and history of non-reportable leaks and spills.
- Conduct informal reporting
4. Conduct Employee Interviews
Talk to the machine operators in each work area. A quick five-minute interview will give you a good understanding of fluids used, potential slip hazards, and absorbent usage.
Talk to more than one person, and more than one shift to get a good representation.
Observe traffic patterns throughout the day so you can check for potential tracking issues of oil getting into walkways.
- What type of fluid is coming from the machines?
- How much volume during a certain time period?
- Any spraying, splashing, dripping, oozing, pooling, and/or tracking?
- Do you use mops? Absorbents? How often? Is it effective?
- Where is the product stored? Do you ever run out?
- How do you like the current product? Is it effective? Does it rip, tear, or create a mess?
- Any concerns with spills or slip hazards?
5. Keep Containers in Good Shape
Storage tanks and bulk storage containers should be inspected regularly through visual inspections and/or integrity testing.
Some things to look for in your visual inspection include:
- Drip marks
Immediately replace any containers that show any of these characteristics.
If you are eligible for SPCC, you must conduct integrity testing and routinely inspect the following aboveground bulk storage containers with a capacity of 55 gallons or more:
- Large (field-constructed or field-erected) and small (shop-built) bulk storage containers;
- Containers located on, partially in (partially buried, bunkered, or vaulted tanks), and off the ground wherever located; and
- Double-walled containers
For more in bulk storage container inspection, visit this EPA inspection fact sheet: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-05/documents/bulk_storage_container_integrity-testing-factsheet.pdf
6. Review your Spill Containment Plan
If your primary form of containment (such as a storage tank) fails, secondary containment is your next line of defense for spill prevention. In the event of a leak, drip, or spill, spill containment will help prevent the fluid from spreading. Make sure you have both passive and active spill containment methods in place.
Active spill containment refers to a containment method that requires someone to take action after the spill occurs. Examples include:
- Putting down drain covers
- Using a spill kit to clean a spill
- Using mops to clean the spill
- Putting up a temporary containment wall
Passive spill containment refers to something that is already in place if a spill were to occur. Examples include:
- Absorbent mats, pads, and socks lining your machines and storage tanks
- Drip pans or buckets
- Underground storage (spill diversion)
- Absorbent safety floor mats, like SlipBusters® or SAFEmats® in walkways
Conduct a thorough investigation of all storage containers, tanks, and machines that may leak oil or other process fluids. In case of storage failure, ensure the secondary containment will prevent the fluid from getting into drains and walkways.
7. Conduct Refresher Training
Conduct regular training to ensure affected employees know how to handle both small and large spills. Demonstrate where to locate the correct equipment, how to use it, and make sure everything is properly labeled and easy to find.
A good spill prevention plan is an important part of safety and environmental compliance and best practices. Use the EPA waste reduction hierarchy to guide your spill containment and prevention plan. For example, source reduction is at the top of the waste management hierarchy. Second is reuse. Consider investing in spill prevention products like reusable oil absorbents to support sustainability and good housekeeping at your facility.