Backup Spill Protection for Secondary Containment Areas

Even with the right secondary containment pads and other measures, you still need basic spill protection procedures for emergencies. The containment pad is designed to prevent spills and control the leak, but the loose material still needs careful handling depending on the hazards it prevents. Putting together a comprehensive emergency spill protection kit is often part of a SPCC plan, so don't forget to document the items you include as you add them to the kit. These tips will help you pick the right spill protection kit based on the hazards at your facility.

Grab a Hazardous Liquid Vacuum

With the EPA mandating that primary containers can’t sit in the hazardous liquid after a spill, a vacuum that can handle the material is the best choice for quick clean up. Standard wet/dry vacuums can only handle non-flammable and non-corrosive liquids, but there is specialty handling equipment for practically any fuel or pesticides you might store. Hand-powered vacuums that don’t rely on electricity aren’t just convenient to use in remote areas, they’re also safer to use on flammable materials that could ignite from a spark.

Keep Some Temporary Berms on Hand

The emergency spill response kit in your facility should include a few different temporary liquid blocking berms that can be set up outside of the existing containment pad. If something compromises the existing containment berms, or the spill happens in an unexpected area, these flexible rubber or foam berms can make all the difference in controlling a spill. Most will need to be discarded after exposure to the leaked oil or chemicals, so plan to replace them regularly as they’re used.

Use Absorbents to Soak Up Liquids

Whether they’re in the form of small granules, fluffy flakes, fine powders, or large chunks, absorbents are materials designed to soak up spilled liquids for easy sweeping up and disposal. Many absorbent products can handle a wide range of hazardous materials like oil, diesel fuel, and refinery by-products. Don’t forget chemical resistant bags that seal tightly to pack away the filled absorbent materials when the spill is cleaned up. As with temporary berms, these emergency products need replacement each time they’re used. These materials shouldn’t be vacuumed into hazard material vacuums unless the device is designed to suck up a specific wet absorbent.

Include Personal Protection Equipment

Each area’s emergency spill kit must contain multiple sets of personal protection equipment (PPE). Employees responding to a spill shouldn’t have to travel far to find the exposure suits, goggles, and gloves they need to protect themselves from chemical exposure. Some PPE is reusable with proper cleaning and care, but most of it is also disposable. Respirators in particular have a specific lifespan and eventually expire, along with decontamination washes and stations. Routinely refresh these PPE contributions in each kit so they’re always up to date and ready to use.

Stock It All on a Cart

Tough mobile carts that can travel over rough terrain allow employees to take sizable spill reaction kits with them on the go. Use clearly labeled plastic tubs to organize PPE, absorbents, temporary berms, and other essentials so they’re ready to grab and deploy at any given time. These carts can also make it easier to position large hazardous material pumps and vacuums that are too heavy to carry by hand. Spills are often initially responded to by just one or two employees, so preparing a small team to handle as much as possible often requires thinking outside of the box.

Install Sump Pumps in Pad Bases

Sump pumps are an ideal option for quickly draining spilled liquids and moving them into a secure third container for short-term storage. Secondary containment pads are only allowed to hold hazardous liquids for as short a time period as possible, although the EPA allows for a standing time of up to 72 hours in the case of big spills. Being able to switch on an installed sump pump and watch the hazardous material drain away rapidly, can make certain liquids much safer to handle in case of a leak. As with all other materials used in secondary containment, ensure the pump you choose can handle corrosive and flammable materials without causing fire or explosion risks.


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