It's inevitable. No matter how careful you are, spills happen.
Maybe it's just ketchup on the break room floor, maybe its a glass jar full of water shattering in the middle of a grocery store, or maybe its a hazardous chemical leak in a laboratory or an overturned oil drum. There are varying degrees of dangers, but ALL spills create hazards.
As one of the most commonly cited workplace accidents, spills should never be an after thought in workplace safety. For almost every workplace on planet Earth, its really just a question of when, not if, a spill will occur - so be prepared!
What does being prepared look like? 1) Have a spill response plan in place, 2) educate all employees on the plan, and 3) have an on-site spill kit equipped with the tools needed to contain and clean spills.
What is a Spill Kit?
A spill kit is an on-site, easy-to-grab, organized set of equipment used to contain and clean up dangerous spills safely. Depending on your industry, spill kits are also an OSHA requirement.
The types of supplies in your spill kit largely depends on what types of spills you anticipate having to clean. There are three main categories of spill kits: Oil, Hazmat and General Purpose.
Oil Spill Kits
Oil spill kits are needed at any worksite that utilize oil or oil-related substances. This includes mechanic workshops, oil rigs and manufacturing plants where there is a risk of grease or oil leaking or spilling. An oil spill kit should contain absorbents that repel water, so it can be used in an accident such as a grease spill in an industrial kitchen, an oil leak at an automobile mechanic workshop or an ocean oil spill.
Hazmat Spill Kits
Hazmat spill kits are used for cleaning dangerous and hazardous chemicals. Hazardous chemicals can be highly detrimental to personal health; therefore, the contents of these kits need to protect the user’s skin when cleaning up the spill. In these kits, it’s important to include protective equipment such as safety goggles, masks and gloves. Some hazmat kits may include full hazmat suits to prevent breathing in fumes.
General Purpose Spill Kits
General purpose spill kits are the most common kits at worksites. These all-purpose kits are designed to contain non-hazardous substances. There are a variety of spill kits that fall under this category for unique situations and industries. Hospitals, for example, need spill kits that can clean up blood and bodily fluids, whereas commercial restaurants and retail stores require kits that can clean broken glass, spilled products, water and foods.
The typical contents of a general-purpose spill kit may include:
- Disposable bags
- Protective equipment and clothing, such as gloves
- Safety goggles
- Absorbents used for soaking up the spill
- A containment boom for preventing further spread of the spill
- Broom and dustpan
- Cleaning supplies
- Highly visible safety barriers to keep people out of the spill area
Photo: An easy-to-see warning sign or barrier can help keep people out of the contaminated area while it is being cleaned.
Choosing and Using the Spill Kit Container
No matter what type of spill you are controlling, it is helpful to have a spill kit in an all-in-one container, in order to quickly access all the supplies you need. Consider having your spill kit on a cart so that it is mobile and easy to move to the scene of the spill.
Choosing your spill kit's location is critical. Make sure the kit is in an area easily accessible to anymore who may need to use it. Having a well equipped spill kit in a locked office, for example, would not be helpful if a spill occurs in any other part of a building. The spill kit should be close to the area where spills may happen. Make sure all employees are well educated on how to use the equipment in the kit and know where it is located.
Include a Safety Barrier
Highly visible safety barriers are a great addition to any spill kit. No matter if the spill is food/water, oil, or a hazardous substance, additional accidents or even injuries may occur if people are left unaware. Basically, when spills happen, people need to know.
A retractable belt barrier placed around a spill can be used to warn others and help keep them a safe distance away. A physical barrier makes people much less likely to accidentally walk through a contaminated area. Cones and floor signs are not as effective as they are lower to the ground and therefore more likely to go unnoticed. They also don't provide the physical barrier that a retractable belt does.
For sites where high risk chemical or oil spills may occur, it may be worth customizing a message specific to these hazards. Banner Stakes' belt barriers can be customized to suit your specific type of spill risk. Messages that indicate there has been a gas or chemical leak are particularly helpful, because people can read the sign from a distance and know not to get closer.
A general, "Cleaning In Progress" message is a great all-purpose optional for most spill kits as it alerts the public that an area is being cleaned and can be used for all types of spills.
Photo: A "Cleaning In Progress" barrier is an excellent addition to any spill kit.
A well-equipped spill kit is an essential part of any company’s health and safety program. Choose the right kit for your job site and familiarize yourself with all its contents. Make sure to train employees on how to properly use the spill kit and keep it in an easy to access spot that is clearly visible to workers.
Remember, it is essential to provide a safe working environment, especially if hazardous materials are in use at your job site. Properly used, a spill kit can help you rapidly contain and clean a dangerous spill before anyone gets hurt.
Interested in including a safety barrier in your spill kit? We can assist you in finding the right product to include in your kit while meeting compliance requirements.
Contact us today so we can start discussing your safety needs.
Would you like help improving your worksite's over all safety program? We're here to help!
Schedule a site walk with us, and we'll build a safety plan tailored to your exact operations and layout.