Safety Spotlight: Chemical Release Preparedness

September 25, 2019

Aaa, September! In addition to thinking about all things fall, it’s National Preparedness Month. We wanted to be prepared, and help you be prepared, for chemical spills & releases in the workplace.

How do you prepare for a chemical release in the workplace? First and foremost, employees should be familiar with all of the chemicals they work with, as well as their hazards and potential hazards. This information is on the label and the SDS.

If a spill should occur, here are are the questions you should ask yourself:

A) Is it hazardous, or will there be a hazardous reaction because of the release?

If the chemical is an immediate risk, leave the area immediately. You will want to note details such as type of chemical, quantity, and location, and report as quickly as possible. Follow the procedure in your company’s emergency plan for this type of emergency. This may involve measures such as sounding an alarm, evacuating, closing doors, blocking entrances, or wearing an emergency respirator. If the material is flammable, ignition sources in the area should be shut down. The spill will need to be cleaned up by professionals.

B) How big is it? Is it controlled? If not, can it be safely controlled?

If the release is uncontrolled, and you can do so in a safe manner, the first thing you will want to do is stop the release. If it cannot be contained or controlled in a safe manner, it will need to be cleaned up by professionals. Mark the area with a sign, or barricade it to keep workers away until it has been cleaned up.

C) Do you have the equipment, material, and training to clean up the release?

The appropriate material to clean up the release may consist of disposal containers, PPE, a sufficient quantity of the appropriate absorbent material, water, and/or a neutralizing or deactivating chemical, depending on the unique properties of the chemical released. These materials, and/or spill kits, should be stored close to where an accident may occur. Mock spill cleanups can be held (with water) to familiarize employees with the company’s release response procedure.