Friday, 28 January 2011

The Importance Of Understanding Spill Kits In The Work Place

Are you required to use spill kits or spill control products at work? It would be highly unusual if you were able to answer that question in the negative because most of us in the workplace have to use spill control solutions of one form or another. This may be as simple as using paper towels to mop up a spilled cup of coffee, or it could involve much more than that.
Perhaps you work in a garage or workshop where machinery is used or serviced. If so then it is highly likely that oil will be spilled, perhaps only in small quantities, but this nevertheless needs mopping up and dealing with. If the oil might spill in greater quantities then it may be required for you to ensure that the oil is contained within a restricted field of area, so that it cannot spread across a wide area.
Clearly since oil is a lubricant if it spreads into an area where people may be walking it could represent a real hazard, and so restricting where oil can spread or dealing with it quickly and effectively if it does spread is very important.
In some cases it may be that the spillage kits provided are for dealing with more serious spillages such as chemicals used in a laboratory. Even in schools the science laboratories invariably need to have spill control kits so that chemicals are contained, controlled and mopped up quickly, safely and effectively.
But with so many different kits on the market, and with each one containing a range of spill control solutions, do you feel comfortable and confident with being able to make the right choices about which product to use for which situation?
Do you know quickly just how much of the spill kit you'll need for a particular spillage? Can you at a glance assess the volume of the spillage and so make the right choice as far as which spill control solution you use?
With BP in the news for the last few weeks with the terrible oil spillage it is very apparent that even the biggest companies sometimes struggle with dealing with a spillage effectively, and that sometimes spill control solutions may not be adequate, and circumstances not foreseen.
The trouble is that many employers often feel that as long as they provide adequate spill kits and spill control solutions people will use them in the right way. The truth is that often there is confusion about which type of spill kit to use, and if the wrong spill kit is used then it may well be the case that the spillage is not dealt with quickly enough, or cannot be dealt with at all.
For example it may be that you work in a workshop where oil is used as a lubricant, especially perhaps in equipment such as rotary blades and saws. If this oil is spilled it may seem appropriate to use an oil spill kit. However, it's worth remembering that many lubricants which seem oil based are actually a combination of oil and water.
The oil and water molecules tend to wok against each other in a similar way to ball bearings, and this is what provides a cooling lubricant for equipment such as saw blades and rotary blades. But oil spill kits are water resistant - literally hydrophobic. This is important because often spill kits designed for oil have to be placed on bodies of water such as BP tried to do to limit the extend of the drift of oil.
If these kits absorbed water they would be saturated within seconds and useless. But because they are hydrophobic they repel the water molecules, and actively attract the oil molecules.
So what happens if such a spill kit is used for a water and oil based lubricant? In such a situation it may well be that the spill control solution is virtually useless, and takes a long time to deal with the spillage, holding things up, delaying the return to normal usage of the area and representing a danger or a hazard for much longer.
It may also mean using spill kits that are unsuitable, and costing the business money unnecessarily. It is important that if you are responsible for using spill kits an spill control solutions in the workplace that you make sure you receive the right information about which spill kits to use, when to us them, when not to use them, and make sure you are completely confident in using them.
Intersafety is an independent distributor of personal protective clothing and equipment in the UK, including spill control solutions and spill kits.