Chemical Spills & Safety: Secondary Containment

Posted by Empire Safety on Jan 11, 2017 11:00:00 AM
Empire Safety Secondary Containment tips

You play by the rules. You know your facility has hazards throughout; it’s necessary for production. Some of those hazards are mechanical and require Lockout/Tagout measures, so you abide by those regulations. You know you need to provide proper PPE for your workers; you got that covered too. And you have even made sure that you comply with the standards for stormwater management and spill control. You know how important it is to the health of your workers and to the environment that you keep hazardous waste from getting into the water and soil. And just in case you ever forgot, the EPA will remind you in the form of massive fines. Facility compliance is important to you. 

Unfortunately, for many in the industry this is where the safety train stops. Once these certain safety measures are put in place, they are often forgotten about, until a spill or leak happens.

The best way to prevent any illegal or hazardous discharge is to employ secondary containment measures, just in case your primary containers fail in some way. 

In previous articles we talked about stormwater management and chemical spill control and we laid out the sources of pollutants and contaminants, and the health and environmental risks that preparation prevents. We also discussed different ways to prevent and clean up potential spills with sorbents and custom spill kits.

Here’s a quick recap of the major sources of spills in the workplace:

  • Loading/unloading operations
  • Outdoor storage
  • Dust/ particulate generating sources
  • Waste management
  • Pipe system failure
  • Operator spill or overflow
  • Equipment corrosion or improper installation
  • Vehicle leaks
  • Leaks during transport/storage of liquids

So, what happens when your drums, safety containers and cabinets are punctured, cracked or otherwise degraded to the point that acids, bases, corrosives or toxic chemicals leaks onto the floor, ground or work surface? At this point if you don’t have secondary containers in place, you have a huge mess.

You also risk big fines if you don’t remain compliant with the EPA’s secondary containment Requirements of 40 CFR 264.175. Here’s the regulation in a nutshell:

  1. Secondary containers must be impervious and free of cracks
  2. Primary containers can’t sit in their own waste, so secondary containers must be positioned in a way to allow quick removal
  3. The secondary containment must be able to contain at least 10% of the total volume of the primary container, or 100% of the volume of the largest container; whichever is greater
  4. Account for precipitation (run-on), remember to take rain, snow and drainage hazards when considering capacity
  5. Remove waste as soon as possible, do not allow it to gather

Hedge Your Bets with Backup Protection:

Spill Pallets: These are ideal for catching chemical spills from drums either from transfer of liquids or from leaks caused by damage to the drum itself.

Basins: Made from chemical-resistant high density polyethylene, drum basins can catch any drum leaks, ensuring that floors and walkways are kept clean.

Utility Trays: Keep floors and walkways clean and free of spills with utility trays that can be used for a variety of uses. 

Download The Facility Safety Quick Reference Guide!

Now we know the basics of spill containment and how important secondary containment is to your facility. It is simply the responsible thing to do; prevent large and dangerous spills that could not only put workers and the environment at risk, but can potentially cost the company thousands and thousands of dollars. In fact, some spills have been so significant that they have been known to bankrupt entire companies.

Make sure to survey the entire facility yearly, and don’t forget to inspect the outdoor areas as well, because outdoor storage, equipment and vehicles are often the worst offenders when it comes to spills and leaks. When you know what the potential is for spills in your facility, you can be better prepared to avoid them in the first place. It typically isn’t “if” a spill happens, it’s “when”. So protect your workers and your facility with chemical-resistant secondary containment.

Topics: Spill Control, Chemical Spill Control