By Travis Zdrazil
How do you clean up an oil spill? No matter where and how it happened, there are three key steps you must take to contain the damage and remove the oil as quickly as possible.
Speed is important because oil spills are dangerous. Oil can contaminate water and soil, and because it's flammable, it can cause even bigger nightmares once it catches fire.
Fortunately, most spills can be contained quickly and effectively if you are prepared with the right materials and know what to do.
However, without preparation and the right materials, no amount of knowledge will be of much use. So make sure that you have the needed equipment on hand before a spill happens.
A) How to prepare before a spill happens
Make sure you have oil containment berms, booms, or socks, as well as a range of absorbents. Which ones you should get specifically will depend on your situation and what kinds of spills are likely. Consult with your safety equipment specialist to find out what is appropriate and cost effective for your needs.
In addition, you should also have a fire extinguisher and a range of safety equipment, including goggles and masks.
B) How to clean up a spill: the three step process
Once a spill happens, follow this three step cleanup procedure as quickly as possible to minimize damage and prevent the spill from spreading and getting worse. If the spill is large, be sure to call the fire department as well.
The first thing you should do is to stop the source of oil or at least slow down the rate at which the oil is released. If there's a shut-off valve, shut it off. If a drum has been turned over, turn it right side up. If there's a hole, plug it.
The next thing you should do is contain the damage. If there are drains nearby, cover them first. Then arrange spill berms, booms, or absorbent socks around the area to secure it and prevent the oil from spreading.
3) Clean Up
Lastly, bring out your absorbents and start cleaning up. The idea is to drop pads, socks, or other types of absorbents onto the oil and then, once they're saturated, gather them up into plastic bags or salvage drums. Repeat this process and continue to mop up until all the oil has been absorbed.
C) What to do after the spill has been cleaned up
Of course there's another step -- what to do afterwards. Be sure to dispose of the soiled absorbents properly. File any required reports with the EPA, OSHA, and state/local agencies.
And last but not least, be sure to replenish your supply of oil spill cleanup tools and absorbents. You'll need them to be prepared if there should be another oil spill in your future.
Want to know more about oil spill cleanup procedures and supplies? Get valuable tips and the latest news about absorbents and other environmental safety products on Travis Zdrazil'sSafety Maintenance News blog and get his free newsletter too. Travis is an expert on environmental safety products and has supplied businesses with products to aid in meeting EPA and OSHA requirements for more than 10 years.
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