Chemical storage and dealing with chemical spills

Where hazardous substances are to be stored, managers and employees within companies with chemical storage need to consider the risks created and the means adopted to control such risks. Chemical spills can have major environmental impacts. Chemical warehouses are required to have appropriate emergency response – and first-aid equipment readily available, and all personnel must be trained in the use of such equipment. In general, all the negative effects of chemical spills can be undone.

A risk assessment in relation to storage of chemicals may need to be completed. Chemical storage keepers should develop written spill response procedures. Spill management and response strategies should be included during emergency planning with personnel trained in the procedures.

Dealing with chemical spills.

International Chemical storage specialist Luciën Govaert: ‘Spills will be either: minor or major, depending on the volume, location and hazard of the substance spilt. The following chemical properties are of most concern when preparing for possible chemical spills: flammability, corrosion, reactivity to air or water and toxicity. If an immediate threat is posed, the area in which the spill occurred should be evacuated immediately. Isolate  and  control  access  to  the  spill  area and do  not  allow  non-essential  personnel  to  enter the spill area. Raise the alarm notify Emergency Services if necessary. Provide the following information like name and telephone number of caller, the building and / or warehouse number where the incident occurred, name and type of material, the known hazard of the materials, the amount of material spilled, an explanation of what happened and the condition of any injured personnel. Apply first Aid and start to decontaminate.’

Generally the following applies for neutralizing chemical but always consult the Material Safety Data Sheet first. Acid spills should be neutralised with sodium bicarbonate. Use vermiculate to absorb organic material. Alkali spills can be neutralised with boric acid.

Where an explosive atmosphere is likely to be present or may arise from time to time, and in some cases an Explosion Protection Document (EPD) is required.