We’ve talked plenty of times in the past about how to properly respond to a chemical spill in a warehouse or distribution centre.
But what happens if you have a spill while you’re out on the road?
If a chemical spill occurs while out on the road, drivers need to know exactly what to do and who to call – something that emergency information panels can help with!
Fail to do so, and you could:
- Damage the environment
- Be saddled with a hefty fine
- Lose valuable contracts
What not to do: a case study
If you live in or near Pilliga or the North East Plains of NSW, you may have heard about this story as it happened.
For non-locals however, here’s a quick recap.
In 2016, emergency services were called to a remote location just outside Pilliga to attend to reports of an abandoned barrel of hazardous chemicals found on a public road.
It was discovered that the barrel contained 44 gallons (166L) of methanol, a solvent that is also flammable, corrosive and toxic if ingested. What followed was a full hazchem decontamination effort.
Fortunately, it doesn’t appear like the barrel leaked – phew!
While no damage was done, this incident raises some serious questions. What happened? How did it get there? Was negligence involved?
And most importantly, what’s a driver to do if something happens to their cargo of hazardous chemicals while out on the road?
The leading theory is that the unsecured barrel (a major oversight in itself) fell off the back of a truck or ute that was turning too quickly. As to why the driver left it where it fell, there could be a number of reasons:
- They simply didn’t notice or realise
- It was a deliberate action
- They simply didn’t know what to do, panicked and left
There isn’t much that can be done about the first two cases.
However, there is something you can do to prevent the third!
How emergency information panels could have saved the day
Emergency information panels (EIPs for short) play a crucial role in hazchem safety. Specifically, they serve to inform workers about the substances they’re handling, the dangers posed and proper response in the event of a spill.
Each EIP follows a standardised design, using the same fields and displaying the same information. There are different types of emergency information panel depending on whether or not it’s intended for a storage area or transport.
If it’s for transport, your EIPs will need to feature:
- Chemical name
- UN number
- Hazchem code
- Hazchem class diamond
- Emergency services
- Contacts for specialist advice
Transport EIPs help by telling drivers and couriers exactly what they’re dealing with, as well as telling them what to do if something spills while they’re making a delivery run (assuming that they’re up-to-date with their hazchem codes and UN numbers, of course).
What’s more, it also helps them (and other motorists) stay safe – hand someone a nondescript barrel, and they may not treat a spill as a big deal.
Hand them a barrel that’s accompanied by an emergency information panel, and they’ll immediately know that a spill presents a clear and present danger, and will react appropriately!
Combined with a safety briefing or document, and you can ensure that your drivers, couriers and contractors don’t end up abandoning their cargo like the case mentioned above.
The difference between EIPs for storage and EIPs for transport
Compared to storage EIPs, transport-oriented signs require additional information fields – while a warehouse worker may have access to a chemical’s safety data sheet (SDS), many drivers won’t.
In fact, for some drivers, chemicals may not be their regular cargo at all – they may have absolutely no idea what to do!
To account for this, transport emergency information panels (and transport-oriented signs in general) add additional information such as contact details for the manufacturer of the chemical in lieu of an SDS.
Other ways to keep your drivers safe
Ensure they know their UN numbers and hazchem codes
Ideally, you should be employing drivers who are experienced in transporting chemicals, and who are familiar with proper procedure in the event of a spill.
Whenever possible, choose a company that specialises in transporting chemicals, has a history of carrying these goods or employ a consistent driver who you know for a fact knows their stuff.
If not, be sure to…
If it’s a driver’s first time carrying chemicals, be sure to brief them about their cargo.
Specifically, you’ll want to go into details that can’t fit on an emergency information panel.
For example, not all drivers are up-to-date on their hazchem codes and UN numbers (not that we blame them – there are a lot to remember!)
To get around this, be sure to explain to them in plain English what they’re carrying, and what to do.
Ensure they have a spill kit
If you ask us, every truck driver should have a general spill kit in their vehicle.
While not equipped to handle a large spill or rarer chemical, they can help safely contain a smaller leak.
What’s more, each spill kit also comes with PPE such as gloves, face masks and goggles to protect drivers in the event of a spill.
Don’t be like that guy
Protected your drivers, other motorists and the environment with emergency information panels
Many underestimate the role that safety signs can play when transporting dangerous chemicals. While they may seem pretty basic compared to more active measures, they still play an important part.
At the very least, they can inform drivers, tell them who to call and stop them from abandoning spill sites like the driver in the article did.
Not to mention, it’s also a legal requirement!
Need emergency information panels, hazchem signs or any other sort of workplace safety sign? You’ve come to the right place! Each of our signs:
- Complies with dangerous goods legislation
- Can be customised to account for less-common cargo
- Can be delivered around the country with minimal lead-time, ensuring you stay compliant