Spill control and containment

Spill kits in a workplace

Most businesses that work with chemicals and hazardous substances are aware of the risks, regulations and procedures required to contain and control spillages that can damage the environment and cause harm to people.

But the fact is that most businesses produce dirty water which could cause pollution if it enters rivers, streams, the sea or groundwater.

Many sites also store, handle and use a wide range of other liquid materials which may not seem harmful, but which can be damaging to the environment if they are spilled in large quantities -- for example, if there was a flood.

No matter what sector your business operates in, there are severe penalties in the event of a failure to control spillages which then go on to cause damage to the environment or people.

In this guide, we’ll outline helpful products and procedures to help control and contain spills.

Step 1: Take the Environment Agency’s 10 point checklist

This helpful list from the Environment Agency helps you to develop an environmental management system so you can demonstrate and actively manage and minimize any spillage and the harmful impacts these might have.

Click here to download The Environment Agency’s 10 point checklist

You can see the HSE guidance on emergency spill control here

Spill containment

Common causes of spills include:

• overfilling or poor handling of storage containers

• equipment and containment failure;

• a collision or accident during transport or delivery;

• pipework failure;

• extreme incidents such as flooding or fires

Containers, tanks and storage

Primary containment will ordinarily prevent spills from happening. All hazardous liquids should be stored in containers that are fit for purpose, correctly labelled and then regularly inspected and maintained to ensure that they are not corroded or leaking.

As a further precaution, it is helpful to use secondary spill containment measures with containers being stored on spill pallets or trays which would contain any small leaks. All containers should be stored in areas that are sited away from watercourses, drains and unmade surfaces.

Spill containment is where spills of chemicals, oils, sewage, etc. are contained within a barrier or drainage system rather than being absorbed at the surface. Spill containment is considered by many to be a more eco-friendly solution than using absorbent spill kits that control a spillage as these may require disposal after use and do not permit recycling of the spilled agent. In addition, Installing spill containment measures prior to a spill can result in significant savings in the event of a spill as clean-up costs can be significant.

Oil storage

Oil storage regulations are now a legal requirement in both England and Scotland. In Ireland and Wales, companies need to be aware of their duty of care in terms of pollution and the environment These regulations apply to any industrial, commercial or institutional site storing 200 litres or more of oil or fuel above ground in one or more containers. In England, the regulations only apply to outdoor storage, although the recommended ‘Pollution Prevention Guidelines’ from the environment agency would apply to indoor storage. In Scotland, the regulations apply to both outdoor and indoor storage.

All containers storing oil or fuel, whether a drum, an IBC (Intermediate Bulk Containers) or a tank must be sufficiently bunded within themselves or stood on a spill pallet or drip tray that provides sufficient containment. The bund must have sufficient capacity to contain 110% of the contents of the largest container or 25% of the total capacity stored, whichever is greater. In the case of single drums, a drip tray with a capacity of 25% of the contents is normally acceptable, apart from drums sited in high-risk areas.

Drain protection

It’s helpful to have products and measures in place to ensure that drains can be blocked off quickly and easily in the event of a spill. Drain covers that can quickly be installed should a spillage occur are valuable products to have in key areas.

Spill control cabinets

Our Safestor cabinets comply with all COSHH regulations and are purpose-built for the indoor safe storage of flammables and chemicals, including paint and other hazardous substances. Our medium-sized SAFESTOR CHEMICAL CABINET, (900X465X1800MM, 35L SUMP, £356.25) also features a liquid-tight sump to contain spillages.