You hear a heavy impact, followed by loud swearing from the floor of your factory, workshop or site.
That can mean only one thing: there’s been an accident at the workplace.
Luckily, no one was hurt thanks to good training, policies and safety equipment (as well as good workplace emergency safety signs to communicate it all).
That’s the good news. The bad news? There’s been a spill of hazardous chemicals.
When it comes to disposing of hazardous chemicals, Australian laws and international standards are very particular – you can’t just wash them down the drain.
First time dealing with a chemical spill? No worries – we’ve put together a crash course in dealing with chemical spills.
And of course, we’ll also be going over how hazchem signs and emergency information panels help keep your team safe in the event of a hazchem spill!
The importance of proper hazchem disposal
Whether it’s a chemical spill or hazardous waste byproducts of your business operations, disposing of hazardous materials is something that many business owners, site managers and supervisors need to contend with on a regular basis.
You can’t just wash hazardous chemicals down the drain willy-nilly or throw them in a skip – in most cases, hazardous materials need to be disposed of in a very specific manner if you’re to protect your team!
As we’ve talked about before, the first things you should do in the event of a chemical spill is:
- Isolate and contain the spill area
- Evacuate the area if needed
- Treat injuries if needed
- Refer to your Safety Data Sheets
- Call 000 in the worst case scenario
Once all that’s done however, it’s time to clean up the spill.
So, how do you go about that?
How hazchem signs and emergency information panels help you dispose of hazardous materials
Yep, you heard us right!
As we’ve mentioned before, emergency information panels (EIPs) and hazchem signs need to follow specific guidelines.
With regards to EIPs specifically, they need to contain a hazchem code, which allows your team to figure out how to properly dispose of spills.
Hazchem codes follow a standardised format, with 3 digits (for example, petrol uses the code 3YE).
It’s the second digit that’s the important one, as it tells us:
- It’s volatility
- PPE required
- Disposal method
So long as your team is up-to-date in their understanding of hazchem codes (and storage areas where chemicals can be found are covered in signs and emergency information panels), you’re set!
When it comes to hazardous chemicals, there are two main disposal methods…
Method 1: dilute
While some hazardous chemicals can be washed down the drain, you need to follow specific instructions to do so.
ically, you have to dilute and reduce their concentration first with large amounts of water, rendering it safe to wash down the drain.
In order to prevent the spill from spreading while you water it down, consider placine absorbent materials around the spilled area to create a channel or trench leading towards the nearest drain.
Unsure how much to dilute the spill by? You can always consult the safety data sheet (SDS) that your supplier is legally required to provide to you. It’ll contain all the information you need.
Alternatively, you can talk to Signsmart about getting a custom sign that outlines proper dilution and disposal techniques to accompany your hazchem signs and EIPs.
Method 2: contain and dispose
Sure, some chemical spills can be washed away – however, this is generally limited to chemicals that are less potent to begin with. What if you work with or store chemicals that are stronger?
In these cases, these chemicals can’t go down the drain – instead, you’ll have to contain these chemicals.
Specifically, that involves soaking up the chemical using an absorbent substance, such as spill pads or sand.
Once the chemical has been absorbed, you’ll want to take the pads or sand and put them into a suitably thick bag, to be disposed of in a hazchem bin which will then be collected by a specialist.
Luckily, a hazchem spill kit should contain all of these tools!
Does your hazardous waste storage area have proper ventilation?
It isn’t just direct contact that can harm your staff – some leaks also emit dangerous fumes.
In addition to hazchem signs, the areas these substances are stored in should be well-ventilated so that in the event of a spill, toxic fumes can be vented out.
Keep spill equipment handy
That means keeping a hazchem spill kit nearby, or ensuring that your chemicals are stored near hoses and floor drains. Finally, ensure that the area is absolutely plastered in hazchem signs and emergency information panels!
All of this can help minimise the amount of time needed to dispose of a spill.
Avoid storing hazardous materials together
If possible, avoid storing two or three dangerous materials together – you never know whether they’ll react badly.
As much as possible, separate hazardous materials in different containers and even different areas to ensure in the event of a spill, they are not in contact or mixing all together.
Keep your workplace safe with Signsmart
Hazchem signs, emergency information panels and more!
Hazchem safety starts with good signage. That means signs for storage, containers, and more.
Signsmart helps you and your business clearly identify any hazardous goods signs and labels. What’s more, we’ll also help business owners and managers who are new to handling hazardous chemicals understand their signage requirements!
We make it our mission to get safety signs to your business with minimal delays. We stock a huge range of hazchem signs, emergency information panels and more, allowing us to cut down lead times.