Comprehensive Guide: Spill Prevention and Response Plans for General Industry
The topic of spill prevention and planning is a huge one. If you are in a safety or environmental role at your facility, you can attest that the rules and regulations regarding a spill can often be confusing and overwhelming.
This article provides a centralized overview of compliance and best practices from several different regulatory perspectives – OSHA, EPA, and local agencies. We divided the content into six major topics. Feel free to jump directly to the section you are interested in.
Spills can come in all shapes, sizes, and substances. Most spills can be grouped into one of four major categories – chemicals, oil, raw material, or air pollutants. You can use SDS sheets at your facility to identify the specifics of a potential spill.
Critical planning and prevention come into play BEFORE a spill happens. This is when you will:
Review your facility at least annually, or when a process change takes place to assess it from top to bottom,
Review any applicable regulations
Develop or update your plan(s)
Put countermeasures in place, and
If all your due diligence is handled up front, you’ll be well on your way to preventing spills of all kinds – from minor slip accident to a catastrophic containment breach.
Bottom line. Spill planning is critical. If you don’t have one in place, please keep reading.
2. Spill Compliance
The major players in spill compliance are OSHA, EPA, and local agencies. In the infographic below, you can see a general overview of these major players, what their priorities are, and a list of regulations for each as it relates to spills.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
OSHA is concerned about the safety of people. In the event of a spill, OSHA wants to ensure workers are kept safe from slip hazards, toxic inhalation, chemicals getting on skin, etc. Below are some of the general industry requirements from OSHA related to spills.
Below are some of the OSHA general industry standards that regulate spills at your facility.
29 CRF 1910.22, Subpart D All walking and working surfaces must be kept clean and dry. When wet processes are used, drainage must be maintained and kept free of corrosion, leaks, and spills.
29 CFR 1910.38, Subpart E The workplace must have an emergency action plan for evacuation and training when an emergency occurs. Examples are fire; toxic chemical releases; hurricanes; tornadoes; blizzards; and floods.
29 CFR 1910, Subpart H (Hazardous Materials) HAZWOPER is OSHA’s health and safety requirements for employees engaged in hazardous waste cleanup, operations involving the treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous waste, or emergency response when a hazardous waste is released. HAZWOPER aims to prevent and minimize the possibility of worker injury and illness resulting from potential exposures to hazardous substances.
HAZWOPER requires that employers follow specific work policies, practices, and procedures to protect workers potentially exposed to hazardous substances. The standards provide employers with the information and training criteria necessary to ensure workplace health and safety during response and cleanup operations involving hazardous substances
29 CFR 1910, Subpart Z Industrial Hygiene Spills can occur not only from a solid or liquid substance but also the air we breathe. These spills are commonly classified as either particulate or gas and vapor contaminants. The most common particulate contaminants include dust, fumes, mists, aerosols, and fibers. Indoor air quality is covered under 29 CFR, Subpart Z, which outlines the maximum exposure a worker is permitted for a wide range of toxic and hazardous substances.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
While OSHA looks out for workplace safety, EPA is concerned about preserving waterways, soils, and quality of air. For example, will the spill leach into the ground or sewers at your facility?
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) RCRA is the public law that creates the framework for the proper management of hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste.
The RCRA regulations are contained in title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) parts 239 through 282. The CFR is a collection of all federal regulations codified and enforced by all federal agencies. Title 40 – Protection of the Environment – contains all of the regulations governing EPA’s programs.
Title 40 includes standards for proper storage, containment, and management of waste at your facility.
40 CFR Part 243 covers standards for storage and collection of non-hazardous waste.
40 CFP Part 265 covers standards for treatment, storage (including secondary containment), and disposal of hazardous waste.
EPA Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure rule (SPCC) The purpose of the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule is to help facilities prevent a discharge of oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. The SPCC rule requires facilities to develop, maintain, and implement an oil spill prevention plan, called an SPCC Plan. These Plans help facilities prevent oil spill, and control a spill should one occur.|
Before a facility is subject to the SPCC Rule, it must meet three criteria:
It must be non-transportation-related;
it must have an aggregate aboveground storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons or a completely buried storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons; and,
there must be a reasonable expectation of a discharge into or upon navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines.Every SPCC must be certified by a professional engineer (PE) unless the owner/operator is able to, and chooses to self-certify the plan.
Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) must develop an emergency response plan, review the plan at least annually, and provide information about chemicals in the community to citizens. Plans are developed by LEPCs with stakeholder participation.
Facility Response Plan (FRP) The EPA FRP rule requires certain facilities to submit a response plan to prepare for worst-case oil discharge or threat of a discharge.
In addition to EPA and OSHA federal regulations, you should also be aware of any regulations from your state environmental protection agency, the local health department, and other local government requirements.
3. Create a Spill Plan
The following spill plans may be required for your facility:
SPCC Plan (EPA): If your facility meets the criteria of EPA’s SPCC rule, you will need a certified plan in place.
ContingencyPlan (EPA): An oil spill contingency plan is a detailed oil spill response and removal plan that addresses controlling, containing, and recovering an oil discharge in quantities that may be harmful to navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. A contingency plan may be a stand-alone plan or included in an SPCC The elements of the oil spill contingency plan are outlined in 40 CFR 109.5
Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (OSHA): If your facility meets the criteria of OSHA’s HAZWOWER standard, you will need a well-documented plan in place.
Clean Air Act State Implementation Plans (SIPs): States are required to devise and carry out state implementation plans (SIPs) to clean up dirty air and protect clean air from degradation. The Clean Air Act sets minimum requirements for measures that must be included in these plans. In Wisconsin, for example, facilities must have a Malfunction and Abatement Plan (MPAP) in place for any direct or portable source that is an “air contaminant source.”
Slug Plan: Significant industrial users (defined in 40 CFR 403.3) must have a plan to control slug discharges. Slug discharge refers to spills and batch discharges to Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs). Slug plans should include:
Description of discharge practices, including non-routine batch discharges
Description of stored chemicals
Procedures for immediately notifying the POTW of slug discharges, including any discharge that would violate a prohibition under 40 CFR 403.5(b), with procedures for follow-up written notification within five days
If necessary, procedures to prevent adverse impact from accidental spills, including inspection and maintenance of storage areas, handling and transfer of materials, loading and unloading operations, control of plant site run-off, worker training, building of containment structures or equipment, measures for containing toxic organic pollutants (including solvents), and/or measures and equipment for emergency response.
EPA recognizes that SPPC plans or Hazardous Chemical Inventory reports may address some components of a slug plan.
If your facility does not fall into the requirements for one of the standardized plans above, it’s an industry best practice to have a plan in place if there is potential for spills at your facility.
What to Put in a General Spill Plan
Regular assessment and sign off of potential spills
Identify and document possible spill types (oil, diesel, battery acid, biohazard, raw material, air emissions, etc.). Use SDS sheets to define if it is a potentially significant spill. Document the worst case scenario for each spill, and the potential size of the release.
Spill Prevention plan. Outline the steps you are taking to prevent and contain a possible spill.
Containers in good shape (no cracks, gaps, corrosion, etc.) and frequently inspected.
Equipment easily available and in working condition
Absorbent mats, pads, and socks to prevent spills into walkways and drains
Spill Response Plan. Make a list of who to contact in the event of a spill. Conduct employee training so your people know how to handle the spill. This includes proper training on how to shut off a machine and lockout if needed. You should also have the proper spill supplies on hand and easily accessible. This could include the following:
PPE (safety glasses, gloves, boot covers, face mask)
Absorbent mats or socks, or berms to quickly contain the spill
Plugging device to stop the leak
Drain protectors to minimize environmental impact
4. Spill Kit Checklist
While there are many OSHA and EPA requirements on how to be prepared for spills, the regulations do not specifically require spills kits. However, spill kits are a good best management practice under the SPCC rule. A spill kit can:
Reduce the potential of slips, trips, and falls
Reduce exposure to employees
Prevent chemical release to sewer and waterways
Be integrated as part of a quick response plan for a quick and safe response protocol
Reduce risk and limit impacts of spills
What you put in the spill kit depends on the potential spill size, type of spill, and if workers will have the appropriate PPE available.
Spill kits are generally good for spills up to around 100 gallons. After that, additional tools and methods might be needed, such as a pump.
5. What to do in the Event of a Spill
Despite all of the prevention methods put in place, spills can happen. It’s important to have a plan in place to quickly contain and stop the spill. Below are some of the key steps to properly handle a spill.
Identify the hazard
In the event of a spill, employees should be trained to quickly assess and identify the following:
Type of fluid /spill?
How much leaked, and how fast?
What is the location and direction of the spill?
Will the chemical go through ventilation systems?
Is the spill contained?
Is it incidental or hazardous?
OSHA defines an incidental release or spill as “a release of a hazardous substance which does not pose a significant safety or health hazard to employees in the immediate vicinity or to the worker cleaning it up, nor does it have the potential to become an emergency.” Incidental spills do not require an emergency response, and therefore do not require HAZWOPER-trained cleanup personnel. They may be cleaned up by employees working in the area where the spill occurred or by maintenance personnel.
Employees should know what they can and cannot cleanup in the case of a spill.
Communicate the hazard
Notify personnel and isolate the area so that others do not slip or fall. Close a nearby door if possible. Notify emergency groups such as the fire department, ambulance, EHS officer, regulatory agencies and public safety if necessary.
Contain and control
Stop the spill at the source when safely possible. Turn off the machine, plug the leak, or do what is needed to stop the spill from growing even larger. Ventilate the area if needed. Stop the spill from spreading with absorbent socks, mats, mops, or other material per your spill plan.
Clean up and decontaminate
Use appropriate spill cleanup material per your plan. This can include oil absorbents, mops, and/or a liquid pump. Decontaminate if necessary.
Report the spill if it meets reportable standards from OSHA or EPA.
Always perform a root cause analysis and reassess control measures throughout your facility to prevent another spill.
Replenish any supplies used to cleanup
Replenish your cleanup supplies to ensure you are prepared for another spill.
There are many types of spills – from chemicals, to oil, to air pollutants. There are also many agencies that regulate the prevention and handling of these spills. Whether you meet the criteria for these spill compliance standards, you should always have a plan in place when there is the potential for a spill.
It can sometimes get confusing to keep track of who to contact and for what issue. For example, the EPA does not handle all environmental concerns, as many programs have been delegated to individual states. Here is a quick list of who to contact:
Environmental Concerns: State environmental agencies (or health department)
Workplace Concerns: OSHA (800-321-OSHA)
Oil spill, chemical release, or maritime security incident: US Coast Guard National Response Center (800-424-8802)
Wildlife Concerns: U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (202-761-0011)
Endangered Species:S. Fish and Wildlife Service (800-344-WILD)
Food Safety: Food and Drug Administration (888-INFO-FDA)
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