Do you think your first response team is being underutilized? If you have an excellent safety record with hazard controls in place to reduce and prevent recordable incidents, your first response team might be able to help in another crucial area: spill response.
We recently visited a food manufacturing site whose safety manager wants to expand the capabilities of the onsite first responders. This group is trained to respond to first aid calls within the facility. Team members are available on each shift and they are easily identified throughout the facility by the color of their hairnets. (Visitors also wear a specific color hairnet to identify them. It’s an effective way to keep track of everyone.)
The first aid response team receives initial first aid, CPR and AED training, as well as quarterly refreshers. Because they have become so good at what they do, the safety manager wanted to expand their knowledge base and make them more cross-functional.
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Some people may not see a similarity between a first aid call and small spill response. However, both situations are out of the ordinary or outside the scope of everyday processes and operations. Both situations also share a basis in mitigating life safety issues.
Expanding the team’s functions to include assisting with incidental spill response also helps to simplify training for other employees because they don’t have to remember multiple responses based on specific scenarios. The same phone call, page or alarm can be used to get assistance with either a first aid or an incidental spill scenario.
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As we looked at the locations where spills could happen throughout the facility, I was impressed with some of the features that they already had in place to contain and control spills, such as berms to keep spills contained and out of aisles and sloped floors that channel process waters to floor drains and lead to the water treatment system.
In the event of a large emergency spill or a release from a specific tank of sanitizing chemical that is kept onsite, the facility has a response contract with a local emergency spill response team. As part of the training, the safety manager took the time to show each of the team members where this particular chemical was stored and reiterated that this falls beyond the scope of their training. Their duty if they see a spill in that particular containment area is to signal the evacuation alarm and get out of the building.
A common type of spill for this facility would involve vegetable oil. We practiced assessing the spill to make sure it met the facility’s definition of incidental and that they had the PPE and tools that they needed to clean it up safely. We also practiced containing the spill with socks then using mats and squeegees to clean up the mess. Because vegetable oil leaves a slippery residue, we also discussed scrubbing the floor after cleanup to avoid slip and fall injuries, as well as the importance of bagging up the absorbents that were used to clean up the spill and getting them into a closed container to prevent fire hazards.
The workers at this facility have a great enthusiasm for learning new skills and expanding their capabilities. This wasn’t “just another safety training” that someone was forcing them to sit through. Their corporate culture fully embraced safety and growth, and it was reflected in each of the employees that I had the privilege to work with that day.