“On a recent project for an excavating company, we restored a warehouse heavily damaged by a gasoline explosion,” says Brent Thompson, President of Paul Davis of the Golden Triangle, Mississippi. “An employee was working after hours on the gas tank of a truck and a spark ignited this very flammable substance, torching interior surfaces. Restoration – removing, refinishing, replacing – took four months.”

Handling chemicals properly in the workplace saves lives, livelihoods, health and budgets. A spill may not cause catastrophic damage like the excavating company experienced. However, errant chemicals can damage surfaces, emit noxious gasses, contaminate areas, require expensive remediation and make employees sick. With so many possible negative outcomes, the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies here.

Paul Davis recommends five key steps:

  1. Contain: Store chemicals in proper containers with sufficient volume and rated to safely store the chemical it will hold. The wrong container could react with the substance or corrode and cause a spill.
  1. Label: Label containers correctly and provide material safety data sheets nearby, making it easy for employees to understand uses, properties and dangers. Post warning signs on storage areas, a step that may be required by regulatory bodies.
  1. Sequester: Store chemicals in designated, non-frequented areas that are equipped to contain spills and blunt the danger they pose. Utilize berms, spill pallets, spill kits, absorbent materials, special ventilation and other preventative measures as necessary.
  1. Handle: Handle chemicals carefully and consistently. Identify which employees are permitted to handle them. Train this group carefully in proper procedures and ensure that all staff members understand this group’s roles and responsibilities.
  1. Respond: Station spill response equipment nearby, create a spill response team and develop spill response plans. Some facilities apply the rule of thumb, “if you can step over it, you can clean it up.” Each facility must develop its own plan based on chemical properties and expert consultation as well as following all required regulations and laws.

And if you aren’t sure about how to prevent or a spill occurs despite your best efforts? Paul Davis is ready to help.