Spill Kits and What You Should Know About Them

Herbert Post July 19, 2021 5 min read

What is a spill kit?

No matter what size a chemical spill may be, it must be viewed as an emergency and therefore be addressed immediately. Industrial establishments and facilities often deal with hazardous liquids, but companies with fewer hazards can also benefit from having a spill kit in place.

Certain toxic chemicals can cause severe illnesses or even death. Some substances can lead to fire or long-term ecological damages. A spill kit can help you mitigate or even prevent these effects. It is an all-in-one container storing equipment and gear for cleaning up hazardous spills. 

What does a spill kit contain?

Spills can be small and large. Small spills are those where the substance can be immediately controlled through neutralization or absorption. A small spill may be incidental and will not generally require emergency response teams.

On the other hand, large spills pose fire, explosion, property damage, chemical exposure, health, and other safety hazards. These require emergency team response within and outside the immediate release area.

Preparing for emergency spills in advance can save not only lives, properties, and environment, but also your reputation as a business entity. An average 30-gallon spill kit can contain the following:

  • Absorbent pads that must be directly placed on spills as these will quickly absorb liquids
  • Absorbent socks to surround the spill area and catch the liquid before it spreads further. Make sure that you overlap the sock ends for a more leak-proof barrier.
  • Absorbent pillows which absorb a higher liquid volume than pads
  • Goggles that must be worn while cleaning up spills, as hazardous liquids might splash during cleanup
  • Nitrile gloves to protect the hands from hazardous spills
  • Disposable bags with ties for easier disposal of used absorbent items
  • Instruction sheet that comes with answers to some of the most common questions about spill kits

This kit can include other PPE items which can vary depending on the type and size of spills that it aims to address. Unless it is specifically designed for handling a certain type of spill (battery acid is an example), it will contain only the basic industry-grade PPE such as:

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Coveralls
  • Face shields
  • Respirators
  • Aprons
  • Footwear

When is a spill kit required?

Spills can happen anytime and anywhere water or oil-based chemicals are being used, stored, or transported. Organizations and facilities that deal with hazardous chemicals must have spill kits in place in cases of emergency. Some examples of those who need these kits are mining companies, light and heavy industry companies, automotive repair centers, general workshops, hospitals, restaurants, and more. 

For instance, if a machine has leaked water or other liquid, this could be a slipping or falling hazard. A spill kit can be used to clean this up. In some cases when such problems still persist, absorbent products must be left in place.

If your facility has the potential to pollute a nearby body of water, you must include in your Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) plan that you have spill kits to manage toxic spills. 

You can also include these into your Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) as a spill management practice to prevent the discharge of unpermitted hazardous pollutants into nearby waterways. This requires larger kits due to possible larger spill volumes.

In cases of emergency spills, OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) requires emergency spill responders to have sufficient quantities of salvage drums and absorbent materials to control a spill incident.

The treatment of spilled wastes or hazardous substances at an emergency incident as part of your company’s immediate spill control and containment efforts can be acceptable to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Check out the permit exception as described in 40 CFR 264.1(g)(8) and 265.1(c)(11). You can also consult with your local government for more specific requirements about spill containment and cleanup.

How to use a spill kit?

You must use only the kits that are most suitable for the possible spills that will occur in the facility or workplace you are in. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to these kits.  Here are some types of spill kits:

  • General-purpose or universal spill kits contain gray absorbents that usually work for most liquid types such as hydrocarbons, water-based and oil-based liquids.
  • Biohazard spill kits are for cleaning up hazardous body fluids such as blood, urine, vomit, feces, and more. These fluids might contain infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis, so cleaning them up immediately can prevent other people from being infected.
  • Haz-mat spill kits are ideal for small and large oil spills as these kits include high-loft fabric with excellent absorbent and retention qualities. These yellow absorbents will work with highly corrosive solvents and acids.
  • Laboratory spill kits contain acid neutralizers, nitrile gloves, haz-mat pads, and more to clean up lab spills that can cause skin burns, respiratory damage, and other injuries.
  • Mercury spill kits contain aspirators, wipes, and other appropriate equipment for mercury cleanup and disposal.
  • Oil spill kits can efficiently clean up oil spills as these contain white absorbents that are hydrophobic.
  • Chemical spill clean-up kits are ideal for facilities dealing with corrosive or acidic liquids. Their yellow absorbents can absorb more toxic fluids.

If you cannot find the perfect kit that fits your needs, you can customize your own by purchasing components specific to your spill containment and control requirements.

Spill Containment

Of course, having spill kits will not be enough. A comprehensive spill response plan must also be in place. It should contain details on kit usage, containment procedures, contingency plans, and more. 

To ensure that you choose the right container for spill emergencies, consider the mobility, size, and disposal requirements. If you need something to hold huge quantities of liquid, choose a kit with a strap or wheels for easier handling.

For instance, spill containment can be deployed through drain covers and diverter dikes filled with water. Secondary containment can be done in dispensing and storage locations. Some containment item options are outdoor storage sheds, spill pallets, and IBC containment.

Spill Kit Usage Training

According to OSHA 1910.120 App C, all workers involved in performing hazardous substance spill control work must be trained in the use and care of spill control equipment. All of them should:

  • Be aware of their roles should a spill incident occur
  • Know the contents and location of the kits
  • Learn the procedures to follow in the event of spills
  • Have access to emergency contact details
  • Know when to evacuate instead of handling spills

Spill kits do not work on their own. There must be a combination of cleanup, containment, and PPE. Being prepared even for small spills can prevent accidents and interruption to day-to-day business activities. If not addressed immediately, an incidental spill can become an even bigger emergency. 

References:

  1. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (2008).Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response.Retrieved: 14 July 2021 from https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OSHA-3114-hazwoper.pdf
  2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.).1910.120 App C - Compliance guidelines.Retrieved: 14 July 2021 from https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.120AppC 
  3. The University of Chicago. (2020.Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plan (SPCC). Retrieved: 15 July 2021 from https://safety.uchicago.edu/environmental-health/environmental-health-programs/spill-prevention-control-and-countermeasure-plan-spcc/ 
  4. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2007).Developing Your Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.Retrieved: 15 July 2021 from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-10/documents/sw_swppp_guide.pdf 
  5. Defense Logistics Agency. (2019).CHAPTER 2: Incident and Spill Reporting.Retrieved: 16 July 2021 from https://www.dla.mil/Portals/104/Documents/Energy/Publications/Environmental%20Guide%20for%20Fuel%20Facilities/Chapter2_IncidentandSpillReporting_Mar2019.pdf 

Author: Herbert Post

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    Author: Herbert Post

    VP Global Compliance at Barron Short Companies LTD. Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston in a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations


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