Workplace accidents can happen at any time—but when those accidents involve a chemical spill, they can be a matter of life or death.
Chemical risks aren’t limited to laboratories or classrooms. Even common chemicals found in many workplaces like bleach, ammonia, swimming pool chlorine, and disinfectants can be dangerous in an accident.
To protect your workplace, make sure you know what to do in case of a chemical spill. It’s essential for keeping your staff safe and preventing damage to your workspace.
To stay safe, keep reading to learn what to do about a chemical spill, no matter what industry you work in.
Minimize Risk With Prevention
The best way to deal with chemical spills is by preventing them from happening in the first place. Yes, accidents are inevitable, but if you’re prepared, you can minimize risk.
To keep your workplace safe, make sure staff undergo regular safety training. Ensure they know how to use and store chemicals properly.
Each chemical should also be clearly labeled and stored with a chemical safety sheet, explaining what to do in case of an accident.
Keep in mind that some chemicals are sensitive to temperature, so they should always be kept in a climate-controlled room.
You’ll want to have PPE, or personal protective equipment, for each employee as well. This will also need to be worn in case of a chemical spill clean-up.
Seek Emergency Help
If a spill has occurred, you might need to seek emergency help. This is to protect employees from dangerous side effects, like chemical burns.
Chemical burns are a frequent injury associated with dangerous chemicals, which can have serious consequences. These include blackened, burned skin, numbness, blindness and can cause the victim to go into shock.
Safety showers and eyewashes should be on-site in case of a chemical burn, but you should also call 911 to seek urgent care for the victim.
Or, if the chemical spill is on a large scale, always alert the police and emergency services in case there’s any risk of fire, explosions, or environmental damage that could impact the public.
After a chemical spill, things can deteriorate rapidly. Certain chemicals can be explosive if they come in contact with water or even oxygen, so the safety of everyone in the building should always be your first priority.
For chemical spills beyond something small, you’ll want to evacuate both employees and customers from the site. Safety should always be your number one priority after an accident.
Control the Spill
Once any victims have been looked after and the immediate threat of danger is stopped, you’ll then want to control the spill and prevent it from spreading. For example, if any containers have been knocked over, right them and reseal them, preventing further damage.
Wearing protective clothing, try to block any drains and put down barriers to stop the chemical from leaking or flowing into other parts of the building. Sometimes, the fumes from a chemical can be dangerous on their own, so shut any windows or doors to prevent them from escaping.
Some workspaces have emergency containment barriers, so activate yours to stop further damage.
Clean Up the Spill
Once it’s safe to do so, it’s time to think about cleaning up the spill. This can probably be managed by trained staff members who know how to handle chemicals for small spills safely.
More companies prepare and store a chemical spill kit containing all of the supplies needed to clean up a spill to make this easier. This can include items like brooms, PPE kits, disposal bags, absorbents, and neutralizers,
While cleaning, note that most hazardous chemicals can’t be placed in the trash or poured down the drain—they’ll need to be disposed of correctly.
You’ll also want to include signage to place at the accident sign, warning others to stay away. However, a spill site should never be left unattended until it’s been completely cleaned and restored.
However, for larger spills, like tankers or drum ruptures, it can be safer and more effective to work with a disaster response team. Learn more here about working with an emergency response company.
File an OSHA Report
After the accident has been cleaned and things are back to normal, you’re not quite done yet. Almost all chemical accidents in a workplace need to be reported to the OSHA or Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
Most companies also keep accident reports for their records. This report will need to be sent to management or the home office for insurance purposes.
Reporting is also important for tracking accidents, allowing businesses to identify patterns over time that can be used to reduce risks in the future.
Most reports require a witness statement, so it can be good to get these done as quickly as possible while they’re still fresh in mind.
Use This Guide to Develop a Chemical Spill Management Process for Your Workplace
No company wants to manage a chemical spill, but accidents always happen when you least expect them. To keep your workplace safe, it’s a good idea to develop a company policy for what to do after an accident.
Using the guidelines above, draft a series of steps for your employees, letting them know exactly what to do in case of a chemical spill. With a bit of preparation and training, your staff will know exactly what to do in case of a spill.
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