It happens!!… We all know that. We are aware of the recent case of an oil spill off the Island of Mauritius highlighting the need for better preventive and responsive measures against such incidents.
Apart from oil spill accidents that affect the rich biodiversity of our ocean and adversely impact the ecological balance, there is another problem that many industries face on day to day basis. The chemical spill incidents are another phenomena that usually go unnoticed unless there is an explosion big enough to be highlighted on the local and national news channels with possible loss of lives and property.
The main cause of such incidents is the lack of knowledge among the workers about proper spill response and preventive measures that should be a priority for spill-prone industries. The fact that almost all industries handle some kind of chemicals makes it a very serious issue. Proper guidelines and training are imperative for every industry related to oil and chemicals. In this article, we are going to review the response and measures for spill accidents.
Before we start, we should be aware that prevention is ultimately the best solution available to us. The proper procedure should be followed during the storage, handling, and transportation of oil and chemicals and workers should be trained for both preventive and emergencies. They should be aware of the proper environmental conditions, equipment in use, etc. There are generally three steps that need to be taken when a spill happens.
When a spill happens at a site, it should be communicated to the other workers in the area and to the supervisory personnel who ideally is proficient in dealing with such hazardous situations. If the situation could get worse, immediate evacuation should be announced and established procedures should be followed.
The critical information such as the type and the quantity of spill should be provided to the first responders or the spill response team. Identifying the workers who were exposed to the spill and providing proper and immediate medical treatment should be taken care of with utmost urgency.
Spill Control & Containment
After communicating the spill incident along with the proper detail & assessment, the next step is to stop its spread. The spill incidents become more dangerous if allowed to spread and can easily go out of control. The spill source if possible should be closed off such as a valve, lid, or righting the drum. The potential accident causing factors should also be removed such as any fire source, electricity, or any other chemical that might react with the spilled chemical.
The spilled chemical or oil can be contained using Booms (for spillover water) and Socks (for a spill on the ground). These two absorbent products are a must-have for every spill containment kit depending upon the site. Both Booms and Socks act as a dam around the spill and prevent any further spread. After controlling the spill, the next step is to take care of the spill itself.
Spill Clean Up
In the case of the oil spill in oceans, there are several methods implemented for oil spill cleanup. The skimming method to remove the oil before it reaches the coastline with the help of two boats and booms and transferring it into a collection drum usually sitting on the same boat.
In Situ Burning is also used for oil spill cleanup. Similar to skimming, there are two boats with a fire-resistant boom that collects enough oil for burning. The chemical method involves the use of certain chemicals which can break up the oil into smaller droplets. These smaller droplets can be then eaten up by the microbes and converted into less harmless compounds.
Not all methods are equal and have their respective pros and cons. Depending upon the availability of equipment and situations, the appropriate method is chosen and implemented.
Many of these methods also leave behind oil traces which are removed using absorbent materials such as absorbent pads. Oil absorbent pads are also used in the case of smaller oil spills. They are made up of hydrophobic materials that repel water and only allow the oil to be absorbed giving rise to the possibility of extracting the oil. These absorbent products are also available for chemical spills. They come in various forms such as pads, pillows, granular forms, etc. Spill absorbent socks are used for spill containment on the ground followed by a range of absorbent products to absorb the spilled content.
These products combined with other personal protective equipment made up the standardized spill kit. These spill response kits along with proper guidelines and training will make your work environment safer for everyone.
There is one more thing we should keep in mind that the spill cleanup doesn’t mean the job is finished. The restoration of the ecological environment and biodiversity is the next step to make up for the losses. The creation of marshlands, habitat recovery and proper amends for any life lost are some of the ways to move forward on the path of recovery and learning.