Spill Prevention and Response

Construction sites all across America always has some sort of activity, that could potentially cause a spill. From refueling heavy equipment, hydraulic lines breaking under pressure, leaky engines and transmissions, leaky fuel lines or filters, to brake lines leaking.

A spill can be defined as anything from a few drops of oil on the soil, to hundreds or even thousands of gallons of liquid on the ground. Here’s some helpful information on spill prevention and response.

Many construction sites have policies in place that coincide with local, state and federal guidelines that determine if the spill is recordable or not with the EPA. Then again, there are sites that require immediate shutdown of the site, and immediate clean-up if only a tablespoon of any liquid is spilled on the ground.

A good example is the Milford phase I&II wind farm, located in Milford Utah. During the civil construction phase of this project, the general contractor had as many as twenty five pieces of heavy equipment to cut roads, clear turbine sites, and to build lay down yards for the component pieces. Numerous front loaders as well as a few excavators blew hydraulic lines, as well as fuel trucks putting too much fuel in the tanks, and having it run over on the ground. This particular site did although have a unique plan in place in the event of a spill, no matter how big or small it was. All equipment including pick-up trucks had spill kits in them, as well as shovels and bags. Roads leading back to any construction activity had large 55 gallon spill kits and containment kits readily available at their entrances.

Preventing a spill can be as easy as putting on your shoes in the morning:

  • Inspect your equipment before each use.
  • Only operate your equipment for what it was designed to be used for.
  • In the event of a broken hydraulic line, shut the engine down immediately to reduce the pressure.
  • In a factory setting, spills can be prevented by taking the extra time to inspect canister lids, barrel lids and drains, making sure caps are tightened after use.
  • When transferring liquid from one space to another, have a catch basin available in case there was leakage, or overflow.
  • Responding to a spill and clean-up activities needs to be coordinated with your plant manager and the safety manager.
  • Know what to do in case of a spill, whether it is toxic or not.
  • Always treat an unknown spilled substance as being toxic.
  • An emergency action plan should be developed and practiced regularly.

Know what you are working with before you get around it. MSDS sheets should always be readily available to each employee to review at their will. Always remember spills can be prevented, and in case you are faced with a spill have a plan in place to minimize the amount of leakage, and always know your company’s emergency action plan, and evacuation plan.

Disclaimer: The information and suggestions contained in these safety talks are believed to be reliable. However, the authors of the topics and the owners of this web site accept no legal responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency, or completeness of such information or suggestions contained within these topics. These guidelines do not supercede local, state, or federal regulations and must not be construed as a substitute for, or legal interpretation of, any OSHA regulations.