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Hazmat Spills what does the MASTER plan state in your program. Is it CLEAN and SWIMS proof!

No one short of maybe the odd terrorist gets out of bed in the morning and wants to have a Hazmat Spill, but like in real life they happen.   So what is in your company master plan, what does it say, do you have spill kits for small and large spills, and who is coming to back you up!

A hazardous material is any substance or agent (biological, chemical, radiological, and/or physical), which is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to humans, the environment and property. HAZMAT is an abbreviation for “hazardous materials”—substances in quantities or forms that may pose a reasonable risk to health, property, or the environment. HAZMATs include such substances as toxic chemicals, fuels, nuclear waste products, and biological, chemical, and radiological agents. HAZMATs may be released as liquids, solids, gases, or a combination or form of all three, including dust, fumes, gas, vapor, mist, and smoke. Is your event a TRACEM event and how are you trained!

As everyone is running around like the sky is falling did you train your employees to SWIMS this event and apply CLEAN!

HAZMAT spills have caused health problems, injuries, and even death in people and animals, and have damaged buildings, homes, property, and the environment. Given such dire consequences, it is reasonable to conclude that one may not encounter HAZMATs on a daily basis. The truth, however, is that many products containing hazardous chemicals are routinely used and stored in homes, and are transported every day on the nation’s highways, railroads, waterways, and pipelines.

HAZMAT Incidents

Thousands of incidents occur each year in which HAZMATs are released into the environment as a result of accidents or natural disasters. In addition to potentially harming people and the environment, spills in coastal waters may cause substantial disruption of marine transportation with potential widespread economic impacts. Both coastal and inland spills are called HAZMAT incidents, and are routinely addressed by first responders like firefighters and local law enforcement.

In Canada and the United States does the government know about your incident and why it is critical for you to call them RIGHT NOW!

The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan, more commonly called the National Contingency Plan or NCP, is the federal government’s blueprint for responding to both oil spills and hazardous substance releases. The NCP is the result of efforts to develop a national response capability and promote coordination among the hierarchy of responders and contingency plans.

In ALL hazardous material emergency situations, the primary concern is the protection of personnel. The secondary concern is to confine the contamination

Hazardous material spills can occur on land or in the water, and can include things such as chemicals, radiation, biohazard materials, oil and gas, propane, flammable materials, industrial products and mixed waste. If a hazardous material spill threatens a community, local officials may ask you to evacuate your home. To prepare for a potential evacuation alert or order, it’s important to develop a household plan, put together your emergency kit and connect with your neighbours. Learn about the emergency response plan for your area.

Evacuation Stages

  • Evacuation Order: You are at risk. Leave the area immediately. Local police or RCMP enforce evacuation orders.
  • Evacuation Alert: Be ready to leave on short notice. If you leave before or during this alert, it’s called a voluntary evacuation.
  • Evacuation Rescinded: All is currently safe and you can return home. Stay tuned for other possible evacuation alerts or orders.


Sometimes an accident may cause a hazardous material to enter the air. Unless the hazardous material is flammable, emergency response professionals may recommend that you stay indoors until you receive instructions to leave. Once you are inside, there are several things you can do to help your building protect you.

Did you teach your employees and response team how to SWIM at a Hazmat incident!

SWIMS is an easy acronym. what to do after a spill has occurred:

o   Stop the leak. (e.g., shut the valve, shut off ventilation, shut off all ignition sources in the immediate area)

o   Warn others. Call spill response coordinator, supervisor, and first responders.

o   Isolate the area. (e.g., rope off the spill site, divert flow from catch basin or drain using available spill response equipment)

o   Minimize personal exposure with PPE and safety practices.

o   Stand by to assist spill responders

Teach your workers to remember: Stop, Warn, Isolate, Minimize, and Stand by.

Now as the teams roll, the fire and police agencies are enroute, and management is talking a third language do you know what they are saying?

ACGIH – American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists

ALOHA – Areal Location of Hazardous Atmospheres

ANSI – American National Standards Institute

ANSIR – Awareness of National Security Issues and Response

APR – Air-purifying respirators

ARIP – Accidental Release Information Program

ATSDR – Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

BACT – Best Available Control Technology

BEI – Biological Exposure Indices

B.O.L.D.E.R. – Basic On-Line Disaster Emergnecy Response

CAA – Clean Air Act

CAMEO – Computer Aided Management of Emergency Operations

CAS – Chemical Abstract Service

CEPP – Chemical Emergency Preparedness Program

CERCLA – Comprehensive Emergency Response, Compensation, and Liability Act

CFR – Code of Federal Regulations

CPC – Chemical-Protective Clothing

CWA – Clean Water Act

DOE – U.S. Department of Energy

DOT – U.S. Department of Transportation

EHS – Extremely Hazardous Substances

EMS – Emergency Management System

EPA – Environmental Protection Agency

EPCRA – Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act

ERNS – Emergency Response Notification System

ESLI – End Service Life Indicator

FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation

FDA – U.S. Food and Drug Administration

FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency

FHML – Federal Hazardous Material law

HARM – Hazards Analysis Resource Manual

HAZWOPER training – OSHA Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response training

HCP – Hearing Conservation Program

HCS – Hazard Communication Standard

HMEP – Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness

HMIS – Hazardous Materials Identification System

HMMP – Hazardous Materials Management Plan

IAFF – International Association of Fire Fighters

IARC – International Agency for Research on Cancer

ICS – Incident Command System

IDLH – Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health

LD50 – Lethal Dose for 50% of test subjects

LD10 – Dose level at which first test subjects died

LEPC – Local Emergency Planning Committee

LEL – Lower Explosive Limit

LGR – Local Governments Reimbursement Program

LOC – Level of Concern

MSDS – Material Safety Data Sheet ( Now under GHS they are called SDS (Safety Data Sheets)

MSHA – Mine Safety and Health Administration

NASTTPO – National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials

NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

NFA – National Fire Academy

NFPA – National Fire Protection Association

NIOSH – National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health

NAERG96 – 1996 North American Emergency Response Guidebook

NRC – National Response Center

NRT – National Response Team

NSC – National Safety Council

NTP – National Toxicology Program

OREIS™ – Operation Respond Emergency Information System

OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration

PAPR – Powered air-purifying respirators

PEL – OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits

PPE – Personal Protective Equipment

POTW – Publicly-Owned Treatment Works

RCRA – Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

REL – NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limits

RMP – Risk Management Plan

RRT – Regional Response Team

RQ – Reportable Quantity

SARA Title III – Superfund Amendments Re-Authorization Act

SAR – Supplied-Air Respirators

SCBA – Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus

SERC – State Emergency Response Commission

SIC – Standard Industrial Classification

STEL – Short-Term Exposure Levels (15 minutes)

TERC – Tribal Emergency Response Commission

TLVs – Threshold Limit Values

TPQ – Threshold Planning Quantity

TRI – Toxic Release Inventory

TSD – Transfer, Storage, and Disposal facilities (Hazardous Waste)

TWA – Time-weighted average

UEL – Upper Explosive Limit

UST – Underground Storage Tanks

Regardless of which agency is involved, the bottom line is this: If there is a release or leak of something that can hurt you, other people, property or the environment, it is a hazardous material. If such a release occurs, what should you do?

What actions you take are based on your level of training in hazardous materials. When a release occurs involving hazardous materials, it is as critical to know what not to do as much as what to do. In a hazmat response, doing something that proves to be the wrong thing is worse than doing nothing. The type of harm that can be experienced can be remembered by the acronym, T-R-A-C-E-M.

T – Thermal: a thermal release, related to excessive heat or excessive cold.

R – Radiation: radioactive material can be either ionizing or non-ionizing.

A – Asphyxiation: causing simple or chemical asphyxiant hazards, it either displaces oxygen from the air or chemically attaches at the cellular level within red blood cells.

C – Chemical: this results from exposure to toxic (health-related) or corrosive materials.

E – Etiological: resulting from exposure to pathogens and their toxins.

M – Mechanical: resulting from contact with physical hazards, usually outside the danger zone; includes slips, trips, falls and strike hazards.

If you have limited or no hazardous materials response training you must understand the hazards and potential exposures with hazardous materials to ensure you do not become part of the problem. Knowing the hazards can provide a reasonable defensive response that protects you, co-workers, and the environment.

There is a six-point method to help you “decide” what to do, using the acronym, D-E-C-I-D-E.

D – Detect the presence of a hazardous material. Knowing that hazardous materials are present in a given area gives you the first clue that there is potential for a problem. Whether you are entering a chemical storage area, a workshop, a hydraulic pump room, a warehouse or shipping/receiving area, or other area, being aware that a hazmat is present should put you on guard to look for a spill.

E – Estimate likely harm without any intervention. At the point where you find a spill or unplanned release of a material, you must quickly assess the situation. What will happen with and to this material if you don’t do anything? Is it a “non-event” that won’t hurt anything? Can it get in the water system and drains? Can the vapors cause injury or death to anyone exposed to them? Can the spill create an explosion or fire hazard? These types of questions will help you determine the extent of a response required.

C – Choose your response options. Response options at the awareness level are simple – secure the area, then run or stay where you are. This is why step “E” above is critical and necessary to do before this step.

I – Identify your action options. What actions must be taken to deal with this material? Will the area need to be evacuated? Who needs to be contacted – safety, environmental, your supervisor, 9-1-1?

D – Do your best action option. After identifying your options, choose the best one and do it.

E – Evaluate your progress. As time goes by, evaluate the action(s) taken and assess your situation. Is the spill getting bigger? Is the wind now blowing the vapor cloud over other people? Is the spilled liquid heading for the water and sewer system? Did the right people get notified and are they present or on their way? You may or may not need to change your action(s) depending on changing conditions.

As staff apply SWIMS, SDS (Safety Data Sheet): An OSHA required document that details specific hazard information for each chemical product. SDS information must include the specific chemical identity; the product’s common name; physical and chemical characteristics; known acute and chronic health effects; whether the chemical is considered a carcinogen; precautionary measures; emergency and first-aid procedures; and identification of the manufacturer/distributor.

First Observer: Any GHS trained worker who spills a hazardous material or determines that a release of hazardous materials has occurred. With appropriate protective gear, first observers can usually clean small, incidental spills, but must understand and be able to implement the notification system for larger HAZMAT spills.

Minor Spill is one in which ALL of the following conditions are met. This type of spill usually can be cleaned up by the first observer.

a.  the responsible party is at the scene;

b.  the material spilled is known;

c.  the material spill is not highly toxic;

d.  the quanity spilled is small;

e.  there is no fire hazard present;

f.    the spill is completely contained in a room or building;

g.  the material has little or no potential to reach the environment (e.g. via floor drain, air vent);

h.  the spill is not in a common area ( e.g. hallway, waiting room) or other area accessible to the general public; and

i.    advanced personal protective equipment ( i.e. suits, half face respirator) is not needed to respond to the spill.

Major Spill is one in which ANY of the following conditions apply. This type of spill usually requires additional internal and possibly external resources to contain/clean.

a.  the responsible party is unknown or not available;

b.  the material spilled is unknown;

c.  the material spilled is highly toxic;

d.  a large (or undetermined) amount was spilled;

e.  a significant fire hazard may be present;

f.    the material has the potential to reach the environment (i.e. in a floor drain, air vent);

g.  the spill is in a common area ( e.g. hallway) or area accessible to the general public.

h.  advanced personnel protective equipment (more than gloves and half-face respirator) is required to respond to the spill;

i.    a responder is unsure whether the spill should be considered “Minor” or “Major”.

Did you call a code CLEAN in your SWIMS

Code CLEAN – emergency code called to obtain system resources to secure and clean-up a major spill. CLEAN is an acronym for the response procedures for a hazardous materials spill as outlined below:

  • Confirm materials released and contain the spill if it can be done safely. Cease all activities and secure the area. 
  • Leave the area and evacuate others if there is a possible inhalation hazard. Restrict access to the area.
  • Ensure those exposed receive appropriate care. Move from spill, remove contaminated clothing, and flush affected area with soap and water. For eye contact, flush for 15 min. in emergency eyewash. Then, seek immediate medical attention (emergency department), if applicable.
  • Access SDS for the chemical and enact clean-up steps if SDS information permits. (All clean-up material must be clear-bagged and Hazmat sticker affixed. Call Environmental Services for stickers).
  • Notify the appropriate support personnel, Environmental Services Safety Officer and Public Safety immediately. Report the incident to the Health and Safety Department on a Incident Tracker form.
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