U.S. Department of Labor
Process: Housekeeping Safety
Areas of Concern – Hazardous Waste and Emergency Response
OSHA's requirements concerning worker protection in the control of spills are primarily found in two standards. The provisions in 29 CFR 1910.120 address hazardous waste operations and emergency response while on vessels and on shore. In addition, the requirements for emergency action plans are addressed in 29 CFR 1910.38. However, these provisions apply only on shore and do not include work aboard vessels or vessel sections.
Employers engaged in emergency response must develop and implement an emergency response plan to manage anticipated emergencies associated with hazardous substance releases (29 CFR 1910.120(q)). The plan must be in writing and must be made available for inspection or copying (29 CFR 1910.120(q)(1)). Included in this plan should be procedures for the control of spills (a spill response plan). An effective spill response plan considers many factors, such as the physical characteristics and volume of materials being handled, their potential for toxic exposure, and their potential for release.
A Spill Response Plan should include:
- Names and telephone numbers of individuals to be contacted in the event of a spill.
- Evacuation plans.
- Instructions for containing the spilled material, including potential releases to the environment.
- Inventory of spill control materials and personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Means for proper disposal of cleanup materials including contaminated tools and clothing.
- Decontamination of the area following the cleanup if needed.
In the event of a chemical spill, employers must provide the appropriate PPE for the hazards to be encountered (29 CFR 1910.120(q)(3)(iii)). Such hazards must be identified, to the extent possible, before exposure occurs (29 CFR 1910.120(q)(3)(ii)). Here are general guidelines to be followed for a chemical spill:
- Assess the Risk. Immediately alert area occupants and the supervisor, and evacuate the area if necessary.
- Protect Yourself. If there is a fire or medical attention is needed, contact Public Safety (call 911).
- Stop the Source/Confine the Spill. If a volatile, flammable material is spilled, immediately warn everyone, control sources of ignition, and ventilate the area. Prevent any release into the environment. Spill socks and absorbents may be placed around drains.
- Help Others. Attend to any personnel who may be contaminated.
- Clean Up. Don PPE, as appropriate to the hazards. Decontaminate the surface where the spill occurred when appropriate.
- Report. Notify the proper authorities of the spill and of actions taken.
Training is required for all personnel who work directly with chemicals and who are expected to respond outside their work area to assist with spill cleanup. The extent of training must be based on the duties and role of each worker involved in responding (29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)). For shore-side facilities, employers must review the emergency response plan with each worker (1) when the plan is first developed, (2) upon initial assignment of a worker to a particular job covered by the plan; (3) when the worker's responsibilities under the plan change; and (4) when the plan is changed (29 CFR 1910.38(f)).
Know what the chemical is and its hazards through the Safety Data Sheet (SDS)
It is important that employers review the material's Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or other references for recommended spill cleanup methods and materials, and the need for PPE. Information on hazardous chemicals used in the workplace must be shared with workers (29 CFR 1910.1200(h)(1)). Site-specific factors of significance include:
- The chemical, physical, and toxicological properties of the wastes.
- The pathogenicity of infectious wastes.
- The amount, location, and containment of contaminants.
- The potential for, and location of, exposure based on assigned worker duties, activities, and functions.
- The potential for wastes to permeate, degrade, or penetrate materials used for personal protective clothing and equipment, vehicles, tools, buildings, and structures.
- The proximity of incompatible wastes.
- The movement of personnel and equipment through different zones.
- Emergency procedures.
- The methods available for protecting workers during decontamination.
- The impact of the decontamination process and compounds on worker safety and health.
Employers should make sure that the proper spill control materials and PPE are available in the event of an emergency. Spill kits may include:
- PPE such as chemical splash goggles, gloves, shoe covers, plastic or Tyvek® aprons and/or Tyvek® suits (29 CFR 1910.120(g)(3) through (g)(5)).
- Absorption materials that include spill pillows, spill socks, pails, polyethylene liners, and loose absorbents.
- Clean-up tools such as a polypropylene scoop or dust pans, polypropylene bags, sealing tape, pH test papers, waste stickers, and DANGER signs.