In the workplace, spills often occur regularly. People make mistakes, a pipe is leaking, or a machine is faulty; spills come from everywhere and happen all the time. However, spills are also dangerous in the workplace because they cause people to slip. With nearly all major slips resulting in broken bones, as reported by the Health and Safety Executive, uncontrolled spills are an imminent worker’s comp case. In addition, the injured worker can need time off work and can suffer a decreased quality of life. As a supervisor, it is worthwhile for you to think about methods to control spills in the workplace, so that major slips can be avoided.
Be A Better Supervisor
There are three major dangers about spills that you need to watch out for: spread, type, and placement.
If a spill has the potential to spread, or is continuously happening, it will pose more of a danger by covering more ground. An entirely slippery hallway is far worse than one end being slippery. As a supervisor, you can reduce the amount of spread by investing in spill dams. In the case that spills recur in one area, you could install a physical barrier on the surrounding area to box in fluid, such as small wooden wall enclosing the area. An example of a recurring spill would be spills caused by one machine splashing liquid. Of course, a small barrier is a trip hazard, so ensure to mark it clearly. Alternatively, you could invest in inflatable, mobile dams which can be provided by certain companies. These are useful to set up in stations around the workplace, so that employees can easily access them.
A spill on unfinished wooden flooring, while it may stain, it will not be as slippery as a spill on polished marble. Understanding the type of flooring you have and how slippery it is with spills is crucial to everyone’s safety. As well, you need to identify the common spill substances in your workplace. Is a coffee spill the greatest risk, or is oil? When you understand the types of flooring and spills, you can make changes that reduce slipperiness. Perhaps that means installing carpet or moving spill-causing processes away from concrete flooring. This way, the slipperiness of spills is controlled, thus reducing the potential of major slips.
Where spills happen will drastically increase or decrease the risk of major slips. To build off the earlier hallway example, a spill in a frequently used hallway is far worse than a spill in one employee’s workstation. The more people need to walk through the spill, and if a spill is on a dangerous surface like stairs, danger significantly increases. To compensate for this, you need to supply cleaning materials in the vicinity of dangerous areas. This should include mops, buckets, paper towel, and wet floor signs. In the case that spills in your workplace are hazardous to health, perhaps you have chemical spills, then you need to supply signage that employees can place to warn others. As well, you should enforce a communication system for all types of spills so that they can be addressed properly.
Seven Tips for Spill Prevention and Control
- Does your company have a spill prevention and control or contingency plan. If the answer is no, develop and implement one.
- The plan should list storage areas, equipment and processes that have the potential for spills.
- It should also outline procedures for spill response.
- Properly store and label all chemicals.
- Inspect, maintain and repair equipment, machines, vehicles and vessels.
- Regular inspection and maintenance keeps equipment and machines running smoothly and lets you identify potential hazards before they become a problem.
- Install drip pans, containment barriers or drains to safely contain or divert spills.
- Barricade or mark edges of wet areas and processes to keep people out when containment isn’t possible.
- Conduct training on what to do in a spill emergency.
- Some spills can safely be cleaned up with the proper training and protective equipment.
- Some spills require special or emergency services for cleanup.
- Set up spill kits and ensure that:
- Kits are clearly marked.
- There are enough kits on site and in all high spill risk locations.
- Kits are stocked with the right type of absorbent and cleaning materials.
- Kits are checked on a regular basis and refilled after a spill incident.
- Ensure that all spills, regardless of size or material, are cleaned up immediately and reported in accordance with your workplace’s spill plan and regulatory guidelines.