Where hazardous substances may be released by spilling from a container that will expose employees to the hazards of the materials, the employer will need to implement a program to contain and control the spilled material. Diking and ditching, as well as use of absorbents like diatomaceous earth, are traditional techniques which have proven to be effective over the years. However, in recent years new products have come into the marketplace, the use of which complement and increase the effectiveness of these traditional methods. These new products also provide emergency responders and others with additional tools or agents to use to reduce the hazards of spilled materials.
These agents can be rapidly applied over a large area and can be uniformly applied or otherwise can be used to build a small dam, thus improving the workers’ ability to control spilled material. These application techniques enhance the intimate contact between the agent and the spilled material allowing for the quickest effect by the agent or quickest control of the spilled material. Agents are available to solidify liquid spilled materials, to suppress vapor generation from spilled materials, and to do both. Some special agents, which when applied as recommended by the manufacturer, will react in a controlled manner with the spilled material to neutralize acids or caustics, or greatly reduce the level of hazard of the spilled material.
There are several modern methods and devices for use by emergency response personnel or others involved with spill control efforts to safely apply spill control agents to control spilled material hazards. These include portable pressurized applicators similar to hand-held portable fire extinguishing devices, and nozzle and hose systems similar to portable fire fighting foam systems which allow the operator to apply the agent without having to come into contact with the spilled material. The operator is able to apply the agent to the spilled material from a remote position.
The solidification of liquids provides for rapid containment and isolation of hazardous substance spills. By directing the agent at run-off points or at the edges of the spill, the reactant solid will automatically create a barrier to slow or stop the spread of the material. Clean-up of hazardous substances is greatly improved when solidifying agents, acid or caustic neutralizers, or activated carbon absorbents are used. properly applied, these agents can totally solidify liquid hazardous substances or neutralize or absorb them, which results in materials which are less hazardous and easier to handle, transport, and dispose of. The concept of spill treatment, to create less hazardous substances, will improve the safety and level of protection of employees working at spill clean-up operations or emergency response operations to spills of hazardous substances.
The use of vapor suppression agents for volatile hazardous substances, such as flammable liquids and those substances, such as flammable liquids and those substances which present an inhalation hazard, is important for protecting workers. The rapid and uniform distribution of the agent over the surface of the spilled material can provide quick vapor knockdown. There are temporary and long-term foam-type agents which are effective on vapors and dusts, and activated carbon adsorption agents which are effective for vapor control and soaking-up of the liquid. The proper use of hose lines or hand-held portable pressurized applicators provides good mobility and permits the worker to deliver the agent from a safe distance without having to step into the untreated spilled material. Some of these systems can be recharged in the field to provide coverage of larger spill areas than the design limits of a single charged applicator unit. Some of the more effective agents can solidify the liquid flammable hazardous substances and at the same time elevate the flashpoint above 140 degrees F so the resulting substance may be handled as a nonhazardous waste material if it meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 40 CFR part 261 requirements (See particularly 261.21).