Completing the spill control picture

Russell Urquhart* covers the key steps towards having a comprehensive spill control plan.

Russell Urquhart* covers the key steps towards having a comprehensive spill control plan.

ENVIRONMENTAL awareness is continually growing and with it the responsibilities of industry to comply with all spill control regulations.

One of the challenges facing environmental staff today is covering every area of spill control effectively — no longer is compliance a matter of simply having a solitary spill kit gathering dust in some unused part of the premises; a whole planned approach which leaves no area to chance is now an obligation.

In the last two decades the government has been busy implementing many and varied regulations and guidelines relating to safety storage, bunding, and spill control.

While these can appear at times a complex minefield to negotiate, it is important to keep in view the wider goal of these improvements and the tangible positive results that pro-active companies can enjoy.

For instance these measures have resulted in not only improved safety to personnel and the environment but in many cases higher operating efficiencies.

With the continual improvement of the spill control procedures and the equipment which we see in today’s industry comes reduced impact on our environment but also on our bottom line as costly incidents and litigation are averted, and our market image is enhanced and converted to increased revenue. The bottom line is we must comply to reap the rewards; so how to tackle the task?

Safe Storage

The simplest and most cost effective means of safely storing most liquids is with proprietary bunding products. These are now available in a wide range of configurations for containers from 20L up to 1000L, and are suitable for multiple containers and a mix of different sizes if necessary.

As the market has evolved these units have continually improved and are now available with extra accessories such as PVC covers for effective stormwater protection, and dispensing trays for containment while decanting.

These units are usually made from polyethylene which has excellent resistance to a very wide spectrum of aggressive chemicals including class 8 chemicals (corrosives) and outperforms fabricated steel products for this reason.

All the units commercially available are designed to be compliant with applicable government regulations, particularly AS1940 — from which most other regulations (EPA etc) are derived.

For larger quantities of liquids such as bulk tanks of 1000L upwards and/or storage areas where significant container quantities make individual bunding units cost prohibitive, there is now a range of floor bunding available which can quickly upgrade a concrete floor to a bunded area of known capacity.

This bunding is concrete filled and therefore fire resistant and can be used around flammable liquids. The most common size is 50mm high which is readily available in two different profiles — one for normal use and one which is ramped to accept traffic.

This product gives a definite bund volume and can be used to comply with bunding requirements as set out in AS1940 and other related regulations. Flexible floor bunding is also available but should be used with caution as it can give no guaranteed volume due to the flexible nature of the product.

Safe Procedures

All companies of today are familiar with the term SOP (safe operating procedure) almost nowhere is this as important as it is in spill control. A well thought out procedure is the basic safeguard to 99% of spills even occurring.

The simplest way to implement SOPs related to liquid decanting, pumping etc is for the environmental staff to consult closely with the operating personnel. These persons will be best placed and experienced to advise on the safest method of doing the task and highlight any previous incidents, and the environmental officer can then conclude on an SOP which takes this into account.

From here the SOP can also be submitted to the state government body responsible for workplace safety such as Safework, Worksafe etc. who have staff specialising in DG storage and handling who are suitably qualified to advise on safety and environmental issues.

Some of the products available today which will assist in solving operating issues are; spill containment caddies (large self bunded trolleys for handling horizontal 205L containers) Dispensing trays to suit poly container bunds, and PVC wash mats and flexible floor bunding.

These last two are a good option around dispensing areas as they remove the inherent ‘bump factor’ associated with entering or exiting a bunded area with a forklift .

Effective Response to Spills When the two areas above are covered the most important element of spill control remains — how to respond quickly and effectively to an incident.

Environmental co-coordinators are assisted by today’s wide range of spill kits and related equipment on offer. These are typically available in three different absorbent types, Chemical, Hydrocarbon, and Universal, and complimented by various non absorbent products such as barriers, drain covers, and floating PVC booms.

At first glance an environmental co-ordinator may experience an information overload when looking for the correct products.

The best advice here is – get others to help. To make a daunting task simpler, environmental staff can be greatly assisted by spill control suppliers who know these products and their capabilities, and will mostly offer a package approach including site assessment, equipment supply and maintenance, and staff training.

* Russell Urquhart is sales director of Aquasol Products 08 8397 0999.