Slips, trips and falls are a leading cause of work-related injuries and workers’ compensation claims in the United States, according to the National Floor Safety Institute. Most slips, trips and falls in the workplace occur on wet surfaces despite Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations that require floors to be “maintained in a clean and, so far as possible, a dry condition.”
These accidents result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in workers compensation claims and lawsuits in addition to injuries and sometimes even death.
Facilities where spills are common should have a floor safety plan in place, and a crucial element within that plan is what product is used to clean up spills.
Issues with Clay and Cardboard
Leaks, drips and spills are rarely one-absorbent-fits-all incidents, but many facilities only rely on cheap clay pellets and free cardboard to soak up any unwanted or extra liquid at job sites.
On the surface, clay pellets and cardboard are economical. These two “absorbents,” however, have many overlooked flaws and often do more harm than good.
Clay pellets are cheap — about $15 for a 40-pound bag — but are not porous, so they don’t absorb liquid. Pellets also contain crystalline silica and prolonged exposure can cause silicosis, a respiratory disease. The risk of injury increases, too, when using pellets since they come out of heavy bags that have to be carried and then lifted and poured on spills.
Cardboard is lighter than clay pellets, but its smooth shell causes it to slide when placed on a wet surface until liquid seeps through. Furthermore, cardboard is mushy and hard to clean up when saturated. Most waste facilities won’t recycle wet cardboard because it can clog sorting machines, which goes against many companies’ sustainability goals.
It’s easier to clean up spills fast with the right product. Now, let’s explore more effective absorbents and their specific functions.
Choosing the Right Absorbent
Companies have different requirements based on what liquids they use. Facilities that use clay pellets or cardboard to clean up spills might not know about other absorption options, such as mats, socks, booms and loose absorbent. Products that help increase workplace safety because they are light, absorb a lot of liquid and are easy to clean up.
Mat Rolls and Pads
Absorbent mat rolls and pads are designed to cover wet floors, capture leaks and drips and clean up spills.
Most mats are made out of polypropylene or cellulose. These materials retain liquid without contributing to the original mess, unlike cardboard or clay pellets.
Polypropylene mats are chemically resistant, making them ideal for absorbing corrosives, oxidizers, fuels, water and oil-based liquids. Mats made of polypropylene are very durable and can be landfilled with other hazardous waste, used in fuels blending processes or incinerated.
Cellulose mats best absorb noncorrosive and non-oxidizing chemicals. They sometimes have higher absorbency per pad than polypropylene, but are not as strong. They are also not recommended for hazardous waste landfilling, but, they can be used for fuels blending and incineration.
Both polypropylene and cellulose mats contain recycled content, which minimizes the impact on the environment.
Socks and Booms
Socks and booms both contain and absorb spills. Both products have a polypropylene tear-resistant skin that retains liquids even when fully saturated, which reduces clean up time and the amount of product needed to get the job done.
Unlike clay or cardboard, socks can be placed before a leak, drip or spill happens and won’t be a safety hazard. Some socks are stuffed with polypropylene and cellulose. Others have ground corncob, recycled newsprint or vermiculite — an inert, earthen material. All of these materials soak up a high volume of liquids.
Booms are larger versions of socks and filled with polypropylene or cellulose. They are used almost exclusively for large spill response. Most booms are used to absorb oil only and can be used on land or water to contain oil-based spills while repelling other liquids.
Mats, socks and booms can take care of most spills, but certain situations call for loose absorbents to clean up spills that other absorbents can’t reach.
Loose absorbents made from ground corncob, peat moss, polypropylene and cellulose soak up between two and four times their weight in liquid. Silica-free loose absorbents won’t cause respiratory issues like traditional clay. They’re also lightweight and easier to clean up.
Keeping Costs Down and Workers Healthy
Mats, socks, booms and loose absorbent initially cost more than a bag of clay pellets or leftover cardboard, but their effectiveness far outweighs paying more up front. Facilities that make the switch from clay and cardboard to more effective absorbents will reduce slip, trip and fall hazards and, in turn, increase workplace safety.
Need more help choosing the right absorbent product for leaks, drips and spills? Read the 10-part Absorbent Training Series or call New Pig’s Tech Services Team at 1-800-HOT-HOGS.