I’ve been visiting manufacturing plants for over 23 years, and one problem I see over and over again is stocking spill kits. Buying a fully loaded spill kit is only part of the battle. It’s up to you to make sure your spill kit contents remain stocked and ready for use at all times.
Fix #1: Spill Kit Raiders
Customer Said: “Maintenance guys used the mats and socks for a routine job. This spill kit is supposed to be used for emergencies only.”
Solution: Stand where your spill kit is, and look around… how far away is your nearest supply of general-use absorbents? The farther away those absorbents are, the higher the chance that absorbents in spill kits will be used for non-emergency jobs. Make sure you have a supply of general-use absorbents for general maintenance jobs in a place that is convenient for employees to access.
Fix #2: Take a Walk, Have a Look
Customer Said: “I needed my spill kit for a bad spill but there were no absorbent socks in it. We used them for a previous spill and it didn’t get refilled.”
Solution: Regularly checking stock and using tamperproof labels can help prevent surprises. If you don’t have a tamperproof label, use a zip tie that can be easily cut. You don’t want to keep people from easily accessing and getting inside but you do want to know IF they have. Don’t wait until you need to respond to spills.
Fix #3: Ask What If
Customer Said: “We never had spills outdoors until a delivery truck had a tank leak. Of course, it was raining that day. All the absorbents in the kit are universal, so they absorb both water and oil. I really needed the oil-only mats and socks.”
Solution: Spills don’t just happen on dry sunny days. And sometimes they happen in places you never would have expected. You need to think through how any liquids arrive at your plant, how they are used once they get there, and where they go afterwards. All of those places are potential spots for leaks and spills and you need to be ready to deal with all of them. A kit with oil-only absorbents is a lifesaver for cleaning up oil and fuel spills in the rain or snow.
Fix #4: Location, Location, Location
Customer Said: “That’s the kit for our battery charging area and it’s not supposed to be here – someone moved it. And I can’t get people to stop using the top as a shelf…just look at all that stuff piled on top. If I ever needed to get in the kit, I’d have to move the stuff on top out of the way.”
Solution: Make sure everyone knows that kits are emergency tools and need to be treated with the same respect you’d treat your fire extinguisher. Place the spill kit where spills are most likely to happen and ensure it stays there. Make sure it’s clearly labeled, highly visible and easily accessible. Kits can even be numbered and catalogued for easy identification and location.
Fix #5: Fill ‘Er Up
Customer Said: “I need to restock my kits but don’t know what’s supposed to be inside. And to make things worse, this job’s new to me.”
Solution: When you purchase your kit make sure you document and keep the spill kit contents list so you know what’s inside. Order spill kit refills using the appropriate refill number. All the spill kit contents will be included in those kit refills.
Fix #6: More than Kits
Customer Said: “I know my spill kit helps me comply with regulations around having a spill response plan. But I don’t know what else I might need in the event of an actual spill. It’s hard to guess what that might look like.”
Solution: Spill control kits definitely help you comply with regulations for having a spill response plan. But other tools such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (gloves, goggles, masks, etc.), brooms, drain covers and spill dikes can be extremely helpful in responding to and cleaning up spills depending on your situation. These other items should be co-located with your spill kit and quickly accessible in case you need them.
Fix #7: It’s all about YOU – The most important part of the spill kit.
Customer Said: “We have people rotate in and out of jobs all the time. And it’s impossible to know who will be close at hand when a spill happens. I hope they’ll know what to do.”
Solution: Make sure EVERYONE who might be exposed to, be around or work near places where spills could happen is trained, assigned responsibility, and held accountable. Like any good tool, a spill kit is only as good as the person using it. It’s up to you to be proactive, train your team and have a plan.