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Construction of homes and commercial buildings often uses a variety of equipment that must be powered by gasoline, oil and any number of solvents. These chemicals allow work to be done efficiently and quickly. However, chemical spillage can occur at any time, and specific measures must be taken to ensure safe environmental cleanup, to prevent contamination and avoid health risks associated with these compounds. A number of different methods are used for cleanup of these materials to ensure environmental safety and the health of workers, as well as for others who might be in contact with them.
Containment of the spill is one of the most important measures supervisors can take on a construction site that has experienced a major spill. A number of strategies are used to limit contamination and make cleanup of the spill easier. First, evacuation of the areas must be done to reduce the potential for injuries. Next, the area must be sectioned off to prevent further spread of the material. Berms are often used to cordon off contaminated areas until cleanup measures can begin. Hazmat booms can be put into position to control flow of materials. Booms are available in a variety of sizes for convenient storage and can be used to control oils, gasoline, fuels, acids and solvents. Absorbent materials, such as kitty litter, vermiculite and other approved products should be applied quickly to prevent runoff and spread of contaminants. Other materials should be moved away from the contaminated area as quickly as possible. Solids can be swept up, bagged and held from appropriate disposal. These areas should not be left unattended, as they present a hazard to the public. In addition, many hazardous compounds are flammable and could present a fire hazard to the wide community. Incidents of major spills are generally required to be reported to supervisors and environmental health and safety agencies, using specific types of forms. Professional cleanup and remediation companies can help to restore areas to safe conditions.
Secondly, every measure should be taken to inhibit the action of the chemical, including the use of neutralizing compounds and degreasing agents. A variety of neutralizing compounds are available to neutralize hazardous acidic compounds. Degreasing agents can help to limit damage to materials and equipment within the area of the spill. These compounds can be hazardous to users and should only be implemented by trained workers wearing approved hazmat equipment. Unauthorized individuals should be kept out of the area while these measures are being implemented to ensure safety.
Another method involves removing contaminants from the soil to prevent lasting damage that can be spread to other areas throughout runoff or normal drainage. In some cases, removal of contaminated soil is necessary, which is then disposed of in an environmental agency-approved manner. In other cases, the soil can be treated with compounds that serve to neutralize the contaminant. Remediation and peroxides often go hand in hand because they are cost-effective and readily available. These chemicals help to break down the contaminant to allow safe use of the land for normal activities.
Construction spills are relatively common occurrences that can cause schedule delays and health hazards to workers. Having a “spill kit” on hand, and training on-site supervisors how to implement containment measures immediately, can minimize the damage to the environment and ensure that all individuals on the site are protected from contaminants. A broad range of products are available for this purpose. Familiarizing yourself with these options in advance of their implementation can help to ensure that appropriate measures are taken when actual spill events occur.
Stories by Emma Sturgis