What you need to know to manage hazardous substance spills.

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Spill management is something people often think of only after it happens. According to Ryan Gifford from Spill Ready, this approach can be costly – both financially and from a publicity point of view.

“Even a small spill can potentially have considerable effects on human health as well as on the environment. However, with some planning and preparation, an incident can easily be avoided.

“People often think of spill management along the lines of dealing with a spill once it has happened. In reality, spill management is essentially a risk management process. Any site that stores, uses or transports liquids that have inherent risks from potential spillage needs to think about this. The spill management process is there to eliminate or mitigate these risks,” Ryan said.

There are also specific pieces of legislation that detail a company’s responsibilities in regards to spill management from a human health perspective as well as an environmental perspective. There is the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 that states where there is a risk from a spill or leak of a hazardous chemical, the company must ensure there is a “spill containment system” that contains the liquid spillage.

From an environmental perspective the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 states if a person wilfully or negligently causes any substance to leak, spill or otherwise escape in a manner that harms or is likely to harm the environment, they will be guilty of an offence and can be fined and prosecuted.

“Ignorance is not a defence in either case, so it pays to ensure you consider spill management before you have an incident.

“So where does a company start when they decide to look at their current spill management practices? The best place to start is with an audit of your sites(s) and operations. This can be done internally or you can engage the services of a spill management company,” Ryan said.

He added that an audit considers things such as:

  • What liquids are stored onsite? If spilt can they escape offsite through a drainage system?
  • What receptors are close to the site, such as creeks?
  • Is there a spill management plan in place?
  • Is spill response equipment present onsite and if so, is it stocked adequately?
  • Have employees received any training in spill management?
  • How are liquids stored? Are there any bunds or containment devices onsite?

“An audit will highlight areas where there are risks to human health and the environment and can identify what steps should be taken to eliminate or mitigate these risks. Implementing these changes is neither complicated nor generally expensive and may be as simple as committing to a spill kit servicing program.

“Often spill management is not given enough consideration when a company conducts its business. However, with legislation detailing a company’s responsibilities in regard to human health and the environment, and large fines awaiting people who do not take these responsibilities seriously enough, it pays to act before it’s too late,” Ryan said.

This story is featured at: http://www.nswbusinesschamber.com.au/Hunter/News-media/Hunter-Biz/May-2015/Ryan-Gifford-What-you-need-to-know-to-manage-hazar#sthash.6Zj3wkoC.dpuf

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