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Your 10-point guide to spill kits: Part 2

Making a mess as an adult in the workplace is really not fun to clean up. That’s why spill kits  exist: by putting the right clean-up tools at your fingertips, they make clean up easier and far less stressful. Not to mention more cost effective, more time effective and more resource effective.

In Part 1 of the 10 things you need to know about spill kits, we looked at: who needs one, what’s in one, how big does it need to be, the fact they’re not all the same and what should a “typical” one contain.

Here in Part 2, we’ll look at what personal protective equipment (PPE) should be included in spill kits, how they should be packed, where spill kits should be located, how often you should check your spill kits and whether staff need training to use a spill kit. So picking up where we left off….

6. What PPE should be in a spill kit?

The personal protective equipment (PPE) in a spill kit varies depending on what liquids the kit will be used to respond to — just like the absorbents (hazardous chemicalsoils, or universal).

Spill kits often don't contain PPE because there is no “one size fits all”. So there’s no point in kits coming with gear suited to a 110kg person, if the responder is likely to be 52kg and five-foot-nothing tall. No point because it would need to be replaced, but the real point is that ill-fitting PPE is dangerous.

Even if a spill kit does contain PPE, please carefully review it and determine whether or not that PPE will actually give your plant’s likely responders adequate protection for the specific types of liquids they will encounter. So make sure your workers have the right level of protection. Some common PPE items in spill kits are:

  • safety goggles
  • chemically resistant gloves
  • aprons or chemically resistant suits
  • boot covers
  • hard hats

You’ll also need to think about the various sizes of PPE to protect all possible responders. Gloves or a suit that’s too small are likely to be tossed aside if it’s hampering clean-up. The problem is that it puts your workers at risk. This is not like your old jeans you want to get back into one day: make sure the gear fits. Now.

7. Does it matter how spill kits are packed?

Yes! Whatever size or type the spill kit is, the contents should be packed in the order that they will be used:

a) PPE goes on top so it’s easy to get to; being the first thing seen is also a reminder the responder needs to wear it.

b) Absorbent socks, containment dikes and drain covers sit under the PPE because they are used to contain spills — and it’s so much easier to clean up a spill that’s contained.

c) Absorbent mats, pillows and loose absorbents are next because they soak up a spill quickly after it has been contained.

d) Plastic bags and other materials used to collect expended spill-response materials should be at the bottom of the kit.

If you have vacuums, pumps or other equipment that could be used during a response, these should obviously also be easily accessible, and kept in or near spill kits so that they can be got to quickly without searching or unpacking.

8. Should spill kits sit near the door?

That depends. Spill kits are just like any piece of emergency equipment — whether that’s a fire extinguisher, defibrillator, first aid kit or eyewash station. Any piece of emergency equipment must be placed where it’s most likely to be needed — and the quickest to reach. Sticking a spill kit at the back of the warehouse where it’s hard to reach will do as much for your safe, effective clean-ups as having membership at a gym 2 hours away.

Spill kits can be located inside our outside, but if you do store it outdoors, it’s important to keep it in a weather-tight container, and shield it against UV radiation, which can otherwise quickly degrade both the absorbents and the PPE.

9. How often should spill kits be checked?

There are no rules about the frequency of inspecting spill kits, but just like the plant in your factory (and car) has regular inspections and maintenance, it’s a good idea to do the same for your spill kits.

Ideally, set up a regular schedule. Employees can raid spill kits for their supplies to deal with ordinary maintenance clean-up such as leaks and drips. While it seems quick and simple at the time, it’s a big no-no, because an empty kit is as useful as hip pockets on a singlet when there is a spill.

Inspections are also a good time to check on the condition of absorbents and any PPE stored in the spill kit too, not just their existence. Particularly if your kit is stored in extreme weather conditions, these items can become brittle over time. Patch and repair tools may also have expiration dates and need to be rotated.

10. Do employees need training to use spill kits?

It’s far easier to know what to do in an emergency if you know how to use a spill kit. So showing all workers what’s in the them and what do to with them is wise. This will include which spill kit to use when, so workers will know not to try to use a universal spill kit when a hazmat or oil kit is the go.

Make sure your employees not only know what to do, but are comfortable using a spill kit. You can have the very, very best equipment (like ours!), but it’s useless if no one knows how to use it, or if they feel awkward using it. Establish standard operating procedures and include safety training such as hazard-communication training.

On top of this, state WorkSafe branches can help you with OH&S training.

To chat about spill kits or for help in choosing the right spill kit for your factory or business, call us on 1800 HOT HOG (468 464). Or get in touch with us