Levitt-Safety Blog

5 cost savings tips for hazardous spill control

Leslie MolinMarket Segment Manager - Personal SafetyMarch 27, 2018

Every workplace uses some type of chemicals, from industrial plants to labs and agriculture, even office environments.

Anywhere that chemicals exist, so too does the potential for a hazardous chemical spill.

Regardless of the kind of chemical that you're working with, any workplace with chemicals on site needs to implement the right procedures to deal with hazardous spills – and the options are endless.

We've previously discussed which spill absorbent was right for you - but how do you know which spill control product might save you money when using it? Keep reading for answers.

Pay Attention to Absorption Capacity

Buying the cheapest absorbent may save you money on the front end, but if you have a large spill, it can cost you two to three times as much to clean a spill with that cheap absorbent. Why? It just can’t absorb as much, so you end up using more. Paying a little bit more for your absorbent to get something with a higher absorption capacity means that you actually use less and save money.

Ask to see absorption specifications of your absorbent. Most reputable manufacturers will have these that they can provide you.

Use a Neutralizing Absorbent For Safer Clean Up

Neutralizers make it much safer to clean up a chemical spills, and there are many different kinds on the market. The key benefit to this type of clean-up agent is the safety is provides to the worker – there’s no risk for chemical injury, which means no lost work days -  any HSE professional can tell you the cost of these days plus insurance rate increases!

Look for neutralizing absorbents that change colour depending the chemical pH so works know when the spill is safe to clean up. A little bit of prevention can save thousands in injury costs later.

Declassification: The Ultimate Money Saver

Ultimate money save! As mentioned in absorption capacity above, the real cost of hazardous material clean up lies in the disposal fees, which is something that very few people think about when selecting an absorbent. You pay per weight, and it gets pricey.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an absorbent that could turn hazardous chemicals into non-hazardous materials? These products are available and can be well worth their slight increase in upfront costs.

Simplify Your Response with Universal Products

‘Time is money’ is an old adage, but it still rings true. Simplifying your response plan saves money on training and leads to quicker clean up responses. The last time you want to be trying to read the instructions and get your degree in Spill-ogoly is when a hazardous chemical is already on the ground!

Universal products make this easy by allowing your protocols to include simple steps and avoid the guesswork of determining what chemical product is spilled. There’s no selecting the wrong product to use - no one will have issues with the simplicity of “Use This Single Product for Liquid Spills”!

Check Your Spill Kits

Spill kits are for emergencies, so the product needs to be there for when you need it. Ensure the products haven’t absorbed water from damp air or have expired and are no longer effective. I also recommend you always go with products without an expiration date; most do last a long time if stored correctly.

We highly recommend that you add your spill kits into your regular building and life-saving equipment inspections. Spill response is part of the legislature in every province and you can be fined for not having an adequate response plan. Having expired or missing product immediately fails these requirements and the fines for non-compliance can be quite hefty.

Sorbents are insoluble materials or mixtures of materials used to recover liquids through the mechanism of absorption, or adsorption, or both.

Sorbents can be divided into three basic categories:

Natural organic sorbents include:

  • peat moss,
  • straw,
  • hay,
  • sawdust,
  • ground corncobs,
  • feathers, and
  • other readily available carbon-based products.

Organic sorbents can adsorb between 3 and 15 times their weight in oil, but there are disadvantages to their use. Some organic sorbents tend to adsorb water as well as oil, causing the sorbents to sink. Many organic sorbents are loose particles and are difficult to collect after they are spread on the water. These problems can be counterbalanced by adding flotation devices. For example, empty drums attached to sorbent bales of hay overcome the sinking issue. Mesh can be wrapped around loose particles to aid in collection.

Natural inorganic sorbents consist of:

  • clay,
  • perlite,
  • vermiculite,
  • glass wool,
  • sand, or
  • volcanic ash.

Synthetic sorbents include man-made materials that are similar to plastics, such as polyurethane, polyethylene, and polypropylene. They are designed to adsorb liquids onto their surfaces. Other synthetic sorbents include cross-linked polymers and rubber materials, which absorb liquids into their solid structure, causing the sorbent material to swell. Most synthetic sorbents can absorb up 70 times their own weight in oil.

The characteristics of both sorbents and oil types must be considered when choosing sorbents for cleaning up oil spills:

  • Rate of absorption -- The absorption of oil is faster with lighter oil products. Once absorbed the oil cannot be re-released. Effective with light hydrocarbons (e.g., gasoline, diesel fuel, benzene).
  • Rate of adsorption -- The thicker oils adhere to the surface of the adsorbent more effectively.
  • Oil retention -- The weight of recovered oil can cause a sorbent structure to sag and deform, and when it is lifted out of the water, it can release oil that is trapped in its pores. Lighter, less viscous oil is lost through the pores more easily than are heavier, more viscous oils during recovery of adsorbent materials causing secondary contamination.
  • Ease of application -- Sorbents may be applied to spills manually or mechanically, using blowers or fans. Many natural organic sorbents that exist as loose materials, such as clay and vermiculite, are dusty, difficult to apply in windy conditions, and potentially hazardous if inhaled.

Oh, and if you’re thinking how great it would be to have a magical product that could help take care of all these points, either wander over to this page or get in touch with us. We’d be happy to speak with you about improving your spill control program and minimizing your response times.