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As part of their overall risk strategy, businesses that handle, store or transport, hazardous chemicals should take the necessary precautionary measures to help reduce the risk of a spill. Clearly companies should demonstrate that they have followed the hierarchy of control by sourcing safer chemicals to use which are less harmful to their employees.

Whilst it might sound obvious it is easy to miss the basics when maintaining a safe working environment as part of the day to day running of a business; however, failure to take the preventive measures against chemical spills could place your company at risk for criminal or EA intervention — not to mention the fact that it places your staff’s health at risk.

Darren Lawson of Callidus Health and Safety looks at the key principles of chemical spill prevention and provides some tips on how to prevent it.

Why is Chemical Spill Prevention important?

Don’t assume that only large-scale chemical leaks should be considered.  Even the smallest of leaks can prove harmful to workers and the environment.  Any leak can pose a threat to workers health and the environment.

Hazardous chemicals include any of the following:

  • Flammables
  • Corrosives
  • Oils
  • Solvents
  • Explosives
  • Combustibles

Prevent Chemical Spills Through Effective Storage

Hazardous chemicals should be stored in covered areas where they are protected against ingress of rainfall, if rainwater mixes with a hazardous chemical, it could further contaminate the workplace by diluting hazardous chemical. Suitable bunds, interceptors etc should be considered to prevent chemicals entering water courses and aid any clean-up operations. Bunds should be regularly checked for rainwater build-up and should hold 110% of the total product volume.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

All workplaces should develop a written spill response procedure. (Sometimes this forms part of the overall emergency response procedures).  The procedures should detail the steps to take when a spill occurs and include such elements as staff responsibilities, communication methods, instructions on using spill response equipment, and spill clean-up and disposal. Communicate these procedures to all individuals who use chemicals or who might assist during spill clean-up. Periodically review and update these procedures to ensure that all workers are familiar with the current information.

The Importance of Chemical Labelling

Current law requires that all chemicals be suitably labelled and that a Manufacturers Safety Data Sheet is available for the product.  Employers are required to undertake COSHH assessments using the Manufacturers Data Sheet and these should be activity specific. This will allow the end user to have knowledge of the safety / health data relevant to the product and safety information relating to use, storage, handling and emergency arrangements  (spill clean-up / fire etc)  of the product.

Staff Training

Staff using or handling the product should be fully trained in the relevant steps of using, handling and storing the chemicals and how to prevent hazardous chemical spills in the workplace. This should include the use of any spill kits etc provided as a control measure in line with the Manufacturers Safety Data Sheet. Also COSHH assessments should be communicated to the first aider to ensure that any medical provisions are held at the workplace and to ensure that they are aware of how to administer the right treatment following an incident involving a chemical.

Regular Reviews

It is also important that safe systems of work are reviewed on a regular basis and critically, following an incident or near miss.  This will allow any existing procedures to be evaluated, amended to prevent recurrence.

About Callidus Health and Safety

Callidus Health and Safety are a friendly, no nonsense, project management and health and safety consultancy. Born in 2009, they were founded on the principle of offering something different from the traditional health and safety consultancy, with their focus being on managing performance as opposed to merely assessing compliance. They help organisations plan for success, protect their interests and perform to their best potential.