Understanding the Secondary Containment System
It is normal to get confused when it comes to defining what a secondary containment is. The reason is that what constitutes a secondary containment is different for different people. Let us understand what can be classified as secondary containment and what are the guidelines specified by EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)?
Understanding Secondary Containment System
Imagine that the primary containers (storage drums, tanks, etc.) fail to contain the fluid and a spill happens. But to contain the spill, you have a system in place. That system is what we call a secondary containment system. It prevents the spill from spreading or going into the drainage.
So, any device or system that can do that is referred to as secondary containment. It is a protective measure to prevent the harm that might happen to the surrounding area and the environment. Secondary containments are mentioned in the EPA and OSHA regulations several times and also a part of the standard safety guidelines in various industries.
Why Do You Need a Secondary Containment?
If your workplace deals in hazardous chemicals then you will need to place the secondary containment measures in place to meet the regulatory requirements as mentioned in EPA and OSHA. Even if you don’t consider the material as hazardous, it is important to check it with OSHA and EPA as the definition is broader for what constitutes hazardous waste by them. Now, before you put the secondary containment everywhere, you should take note of the places where there is a drainage or maybe a creek nearby. The thing you need to focus on is to prevent environmental harm.
Points to Consider for Secondary Containment
1. There should be no gaps or cracks in your secondary container. Regularly keep notes of the condition of the container and replace the containment if necessary. Any minor damage or crack is enough to prevent the secondary container from doing its job. Always make sure that the secondary container is perfectly compatible with the hazardous chemical it intends to contain.
2. The secondary container should be designed in such a way that it is easy to remove the spilled content in the sump. A sump is an area where spilled content is stored and can be treated as the capacity of the secondary containers. Make sure that the sump capacity is enough or exceeds the required containment capacity.
3. The secondary containment system should be able to hold a minimum of 10% of the volume of the primary container or 100% of the volume of the largest container, whichever is greater. This secondary containment regulation can sound very confusing. So, let’s take an example to get a better understanding of this regulation. Let’s consider that you have two primary containers with a capacity of 60 gallons.
So, the total volume for storage will be 120 gallons.
Now, 10% of that value will be 12 gallons.
100% of the volume of the largest container will be 60 gallons.
Now, 60 gallons is greater than 12 gallons. So, according to the regulation, your secondary container should have a sump capacity of at least 60 gallons, or ideally, it should exceed 60 gallons (110% of the volume of the largest container).
4. Prevent the precipitation (such as rainwater) from entering the secondary container unless the sump capacity is sufficient to handle the combined volume of the precipitation and the primary container. This is when the container is placed outside. The situation of overflow might occur if this regulation is neglected. The best way is to keep the container under cover or shelter but in case this isn’t possible, do keep in mind this regulation.
5. Remove the spilled content from the secondary container in a timely manner. Regularly check the container and keep it clean. This will keep the overflow in check and also increases the life cycle of the secondary container as the spilled content might reduce the endurance of the container material if left for a long time.
Now, you have a better understanding of the secondary containment system and what steps you need to take to follow the standard safety regulations.
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