An Introduction to Accidental Release Measures
The accidental release of hazardous materials in the workplace can be a serious emergency. Knowing the proper procedures when a release occurs can save lives.
Hazardous materials have become an all too common part of our lives. They help us with everything from cleaning our homes to powering our cars. However if you aren't careful, they can be far more dangerous than they need to be. Knowing what accidental release measures need to be taken could mean the difference between life and death. When you are dealing with hazardous materials, even a tiny release can become a major problem.
If it's a gas, you might not see it at all, and that is when it is at its most dangerous. Having the proper equipment and knowing what to do could save your life, as well as others. Large or small, a hazardous materials release is a potentially deadly situation that must be dealt with quickly and efficiently. Knowing your accidental release measures can prevent panic, and allow a swift decisive action.
You can begin by participating in your company's Hazard Communication Program. It provides you with the information that you need to understand the hazards of the chemicals you work with, chemical labeling and the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). You should also find and familiarize yourself with the "Spill Guidelines" for your facility. Be sure to ask your supervisor where you can get a copy of the facility's "Emergency Response Plan".
"First Responder Awareness Level" training must be given to all workers who are likely to witness a spill, leak or other accidental release measures of a hazardous material. These employees must go through four hours of training to learn the reporting procedures that should be used to initiate an emergency response. The first group of workers who actually respond to spills are trained at the "First Responder Operations Level" This is for workers whose job is to be on the scene first, secure and contain the issue.
Whenever a hazardous spill occurs, an Operations Level First Responder will immediately, review the scene and determine the next best step. They may evacuate the area, place barriers around the spill to prevent contamination from spreading, put up signs or caution tape to let other workers know that there was a spill and to stay away.
As soon as the area is secure, the spill site will be "characterized". This process includes identifying the chemicals involved in the release and determining the hazards they present.
After the site has been characterized, the spill itself will need to be contained. Be sure to use materials that you have been specifically trained to use for the type of hazard that has been released. Sandbags should never be used to stop any type of spill. They are not made to absorb hazardous substances. Spilled chemicals can leak through a sandbag, allowing contamination to spread. In some cases, the sand itself could actually react with the spilled liquids. If you spot chemicals leaking into a drain, contact your supervisor immediately.
Follow your accidental release measures training, no matter how small the step may be. This is the best way to prevent damage from being significantly worse than it should be. If you train properly you will no panic, and will be able to deal with the issue promptly and effectively.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charlie Bentson King is a Vice President for Workplace Safety Videos - The world's most comprehensive source of safety video and safety DVD training programs.