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Cleaning Up Your Act: Key Determinants in Successful Spill Response

What words come to mind when you hear the word spill? Emergency, disaster, mistake, and dangerous may be among the first few, and there isn’t much to think about positively. However, with proper spill prevention preparation, no matter how big or small the event, the spill response can be cost and time-efficient. Nobody wants to believe their company could be the next victim of an environmental spill or release, but the unexpected is always possible. If your company has plans in place to mitigate potential threats, instill safety, and identify appropriate preparation from the beginning, it can reduce the possibility of an unfortunate spill event.

What Is the First Step in Mitigating Spills?

Make sure they don’t happen. I know, it sounds obvious. It is certainly easier said than done but preventing spills from happening is the best line of defense. One of the best ways to foster prevention strategies is to make sure that every employee knows about the chemicals present at the site, their dangers, and how to manage them properly. This also means that the importance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be emphasized so it is second nature for those involved in day-to-day operations. Prevention is also about having the right materials available, from PPE to Safety Data Sheets (SDS), to ensure there are no excuses about not knowing the appropriate requirements and standards when handling potentially hazardous materials. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to environmental contaminants, so make sure that knowledge is shared thoroughly and often.

Respond Quickly and Communicate

Now, imagine a spill occurs even though training and procedures were in place to prevent it. There are a few key factors that will help make sure you get it taken care of and get back to business. Among these are honesty and speed. At a recent site, an industrial tube manufacturer had an unexpected water coolant spill from a faulty spigot. As soon as they were aware of what was happening, in a matter of hours, the company took appropriate steps to stop the source and clean up a nearby drainage ditch in which the coolant water had discharged. When you are transparent about a problem, it can be solved before any long-term impacts occur. Identifying and resolving a spill or emergency with a sense of urgency can lead to less time and cost during the cleanup process.

Lastly, Prevention from Future Spills

Remediation has now occurred, documentation has been prepared, and the facility is operating back to normalcy. The next step is to ensure you are taking measures to prevent this from happening in the future. Utilizing past experiences, processes should be implemented to address and mitigate any issues, malfunctions, or human errors. Specialized training of on-site personnel, providing PPE and spill kits/containers, and understanding day-to-day operations at the facility can all be instituted as preparedness for the next potential unexpected spill.

Now what words come to mind when you hear the word spill? Hopefully manageable, preparedness, and know-how might be among the few. Spills can be all of these with some planning and patience, we just have to put these preparatory measures into action and ensure we can have the best spill response in the case it does occur.

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