The BOSS Federation is the trade association which serves the UK office supplies and services industry by providing a range of initiatives, cost saving benefits and services, to enhance the business performance of its members.

Cleaning Up

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06 August 2019

*One litre of diesel can pollute one million litres of water 

In sufficient volume, something as innocuous as milk will kill fish in a watercourse. So, imagine the impact to the environment if a 1,000 litre IBC containing solvent should spill and enter the watercourse from your drains. This could lead to a major environmental issue, hefty fines from the Environmental Agency, and unwanted publicity that could lead to loss of major contracts.

Smaller spills can also have serious consequences on the natural environment near the workplace. Liquids can soak through the ground to reach ground water, ditches and watercourses. Spillages can travel far in running water before detection and cause severe damage to wildlife.

Health hazards could manifest in the form of harm to skin, eyes and respiratory system. Many chemicals can penetrate unbroken skin, causing ill effects in other parts of the body. Breathing in fine dust or vapour from powder or liquid spills can cause short or long-term ill health. Chemicals may enter the lungs and could affect the kidneys, liver or heart. Vapour may lead to narcotic effects, sleepiness or even unconsciousness. The effects of chemical spillage are even more pronounced in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.

Cleaning Up

Spills must be cleaned up safely and as soon as possible, without putting responders in danger. The first steps are critical for a safe outcome and should be proportionate to the incident’s nature and scale. The magnitude of risk will depend on the hazards the spill presents to those exposed. It is important to know where site drains lead to. There are two main types:

1. Surface water to take away the rainfall

2. Foul sewers that take the domestic waste to treatment works 

It is also important to build an inventory of all substances that are categorised as hazardous under the Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulations. Suppliers are legally required to provide a compliant Safety Data Sheet (SDS), where the most important sections are listed in the Spill Response Sequence: 

1. Is it classified as harmful? Does it have danger pictograms on the original container?

2. Check the product safety data sheet, follow the advice in the following specific sections: First
Aid, Firefighting, Accidental Release Measures, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Ecological Information, Disposal Considerations.

3. Assess the danger to people and the environment.

4. Exclude unnecessary personnel from the area.

5. Clean up the spill using recommended PPE and spill kits.

6. Investigate the cause of the spillage in order to prevent recurrence.

Spill Kits

A typical spill kit will include a mobile bin with a lid containing oil or chemical absorbent pads, an inert absorbent such as granules, and plastic bin bags to store the spill. It should be strategically located so that a spillage can be cleaned up or contained immediately. Drain covers should be placed in yard areas to prevent the spillage entering the drains.

For more information about spillages, please contact BOSS Federation Specialist Services on 01924 203335 or Phil Ashcroft, Health, Safety & Environmental Adviser, at [email protected] or on 07801 981 340 

*Pollution Prevention Guidelines PPG 17

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