Spill response, containment and cleanup can be smooth processes with a comprehensive plan, the right products and well-trained employees. That’s just one part of the equation, though.
Employees cleaning up hazardous materials are also required to classify the spills as incidental or emergency. This is mandatory to stay in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Standards [29 CFR 1910.1200].
A spill is classified as incidental if it can be controlled and cleaned up by employees in the immediate area and “poses no emergency or significant threat to the safety and health of employees in the immediate vicinity.” When this is the case, the HAZWOPER regulation does not apply.
Employers must still, however, have an emergency action plan in place, which should describe employees’ roles and provide information such as emergency telephone numbers and evacuation routes [29 CFR 1910.38].
Employees who respond to incidental spills also still need training under the hazard communication (HazCom) standard [29 CFR 1910.1200]. HazCom requires employees to be properly trained to protect themselves when responding to a potentially hazardous spill.
A spill is classified emergency if it poses “a sufficient threat to health and safety.” Employees who respond to emergency spills must be trained in compliance with OSHA’s HAZWOPER requirements. Facilities with emergency spill responders must also enforce written plans that outline the steps employees should take.
OSHA also requires that employees involved in HAZWOPER cleanup, emergency spill response and other hazardous operations go through refresher training annually.
Classifying spills and complying with applicable HAZWOPER standards on top of initial spill response can seem daunting. Implementing the proper plans, however, will reduce response time and keep employees safe.