Tag Archives: spill

Moisture absorbent granules: where the magic happens when there’s a spill

They all do basically the same job, but picking the right absorbent granules for your potential spill requires careful thought. What might be spilled? How much spillage might there be? Spill Control Centre guides you through what’s available, and highlights what each absorbent granule is good at.

I can’t help thinking that, every time a customer buys one of our absorbent granule products, they’re ready to perform a little bit of magic because of the science behind the product. It’s as though millions of tiny sponges are deployed over the spill, which can’t be picked up, to turn liquid into a solid that’s easily and safely cleared away with a brush and shovel, or even a dustpan, for the smaller ones.

Of course it’s not really magic, unless you count organic chemistry as magic, because that’s exactly what’s happening. Key to the success of absorbent granules is illustrated by their use of cellulose, the world’s most common organic polymer, making up about a third of all vegetable matter.

It has a complicated chemical formula involving carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, which makes it a kind of sugar, and we know how readily that dissolves.

Science has moved on a little way from using cellulose, though it still works well, to use sodium polyacrylate, which can hold 200 times its own weight of liquid, and is found in disposable nappies.

A range of absorbent materials

The arrival of alternative chemicals means absorbent granules can be more easily tailored to suit the spill they’re intended to clean up, but their effectiveness is quite remarkable.

Take a 10g pack of granules for mopping up body fluids; that can absorb a litre of fluid, turning it into a solid for easy and safe cleaning up. Not only that, but it works equally well on carpet and solid floors.

Cleaning up body fluids is a specialised area, and involves far less liquid than other spills such as chemicals, oils, and acids. For these, different materials are available, made from particular kinds of clay and even softwood.

Thank Attapulgus for clay granules!

The clay, one of the types of Fuller’s Earth, has diverse names like Bentonite, Palygorskite and Attapulgite, all derived from the places they are found – respectively near the Rock River in the US state of Wyoming, in central America, and the town of Attapulgus in Georgia, USA, where it’s surface mined and shipped around the world.
The absorbing powers of different kinds of absorbent granules come with a variety of other properties too. Some are suitable for use where vehicles need to go, because they are crush resistant; some are guaranteed to be non-slip, and others are suited to indoor garage areas or haulage yards.

Products may also be approved by the Ministry of Defence or conform to European Road Safety Regulations. What they have in common, apart from their absorbing capacity, is that they’re chemically inert and fire retardant to BS 476 Part 7.

A question of scale

At the opposite end of the scale from the 10g bag of granules for body fluid absorption are 20kg bags of construction clay granules, which are available on pallets of 70 bags.
Between those extremes there is certain to be the right product to deal with any kind of spill, and they are also available thoughtfully packed with appropriate PPE to keep the user safe when there’s a clean up to be done.

And finally…

Absorbent granules have a role to play in every cat owner’s home. Cat litter is just one type of absorbent granules product with a very specific use – which the kitten in our picture is just learning about.

Cat litter
Check our range of absorbent granules to deal with problematic spills.

Plant nappies: the slick solution to spill containment around machinery

A slack attitude to spills can prove expensive, especially for small firms when key employees are put out of action. Use of plant nappies for spill containment is an effective and safe option in any location. The Spill Control Centre highlights their advantages.

Whenever I see the inside of a Formula 1 garage I’m struck by the high standards of cleanliness. Not a speck of dust contaminates the floor in spite of all the fluids involved, and the comings and goings of people required to run a team in the top flight of motorsport.

It always makes me think of the time when I watched a man in a back-street garage spill some paint whilst he was preparing to respray a customer’s car. Rather than clean it up, he put an oil-stained traffic cone near it with a shrug, and said: “It’s not too much. It’ll dry.”

Such a slack attitude was eventually to cost him his business, because he damaged ligaments in his knee when he slipped on a pool of oil he’d spilled. By the time his knee had mended, his customer base had melted away. Perhaps if he’d kept the place clean…

And it’s not as if it’s that difficult to have a clean and orderly workplace. If spills are unavoidable – and I’m no means certain that they are – then you need to have cost-effective and efficient spill containment measures in place. Drips trays are an obvious choice, but their major disadvantage is how to keep them clean. After all, spilled oil is as hard to clean from a drip tray as it is from the floor. So what is a more appropriate solution?

Plant NappiesPlant Nappy

A far better and more easily-managed option is a really cost-effective plant nappy. Coupled with a disposable plant nappy liner, these are not only ruggedly-built and made in the UK, but are easy to deploy inside or out, and, in spite of their low price, come in a range of sizes that can hold up to a massive 18 litres of fluid.

Six of the best reasons to use plant nappies as spill containment trays

  • Cost effective
  • Quick and easy to deploy
  • Easier to keep clean than conventional oil drip trays
  • Can be used on uneven surfaces
  • Will hold up to 18 litres of fluid
  • Protect the environment

Six ways to make spill containment ‘business as usual’

  • Encourage a cleaner workplace through use of bins instead of the floor
  • Discourage over-filling of containers
  • Get employees to report leaks – and act on the reports
  • Devise procedures that mean people don’t have to rush, and have space to work
  • Provide cleaning materials and spill kits, make them visible
  • Introduce a cleaning regime that prevents a build-up of oil and grease

Six potential consequences of spills

  • Risk of injury through slips and trips
  • Can bring damaging litigation if they cause an accident
  • Can threaten business continuity
  • Increased costs through wasted supplies
  • Harmful to productivity
  • Contamination of products

But of course things don’t get spilled only at work; spills in the home are a hazard too, especially to younger children and older members of the family, both of whom can be a little unsteady on their feet. Take a moment to look out for them.

The Health and Safety Executive offers a really helpful guide to the kind of hazards that can be faced at work, in the home, or both, with useful advice about how to avoid problems with all of them.

Five reasons NOT to clean up a chemical spill – unless you have a chemical spill kit

Yes, you read that correctly. There are times when you shouldn’t set about cleaning up a chemical spill. Although it might seem hard to believe –because spills should always be cleaned up as quickly as possible – there are times when you should leave well alone; when intervention may serve only to make things worse.

So what are they?

The answer lies in a paraphrasing of that old prayer:

“God grant me courage to change what I can change; strength to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

When it comes to chemical spills, we might change it to:

“God give me the presence of mind to clean up a chemical spill I can control; the clarity of vision to call the right people when I can’t control it, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

When NOT to clean up a chemical spill

• when you don’t know what’s been spilled (and therefore what hazards you might be exposing yourself to)

• when you don’t have the right protective clothing or equipment to tackle it safely

• when the spill is extremely toxic

• when the spill is too large

• and when you feel you may be suffering symptoms of exposure to whatever’s been spilled.

The right approach in these circumstances is based on preparation for the worst case scenario – remember here that oft-quoted law that if something can go wrong, it eventually will.

Chemical spill procedures and what to do

Chemical Spill KitLong before any spill happens is the right time to prepare for it. As an employer, you should be encouraging awareness of what materials are in the workplace, training people in their safe use, providing appropriate personal protective equipment and spill control measures, such as chemical spill kits, and establishing safe procedures. As an employee, you should be taking on board all the training and instruction being offered; making yourself aware of the right procedures and actions, looking after your PPE and wearing it correctly, and doing all you can to keep your workmates safe. And everyone should be working in a safe way to prevent spills in the first place.

Everyone also needs to remember that ‘spill’ isn’t just about the knocking over of a drum or chemical container, or a burst pipe. Even small amounts of some materials can be harmful to health if people come into contact with them over a long period.

Chemical spill response and what to do

What you should do in the event of a spill includes the following, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Always remember that the conditions in any given workplace may be quite specific.

• make sure everyone in the area is aware of the spill

• call the emergency phone numbers

• attend to anyone who’s been injured

• cover drains to prevent spills spreading (if it’s safe to do so)

• use the right materials to absorb or contain a spill, if you have the right training and equipment to do it effectively.

Further information:

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency has produced a useful guide on dealing with spills. Or visit our advice centre for more information on what to do in the event of a spill.

Five top tips to help you banish spills for ever

Tip 1: Understand costs

Do you really understand the fine detail of the costs in your business? If you do, you’ll know what you paid for that half litre of hydraulic oil that’s just been dropped on the floor, and what the clean-up materials are going to cost to pick it up again. But that’s only part of the story. You’ll need to factor in the time taken to clean it up, which earns you nothing, against the lost revenue from production set aside whilst cleaning goes on. Then there’s the cost of disposal of the clean-up materials, and maybe even landfill tax. And what if someone slips and injures themselves on the spill? That opens up a whole new world of pain on the cost front. Only when you understand all that will you know the real cost of spills, and get maximum motivation to prevent them.

Tip 2: Keep it clean

Spill KitIf your workplace is clean and tidy, spills will become more obvious. If employees are working on floors caked by years of grime, any spill is harder to spot. More than that, you might be accepting a certain degree of spillage as part of the daily routine. Re-read Tip 1, and then imagine that grime is pound coins, which really ought to be in the bank or in your pocket. Does that make you see things differently?

Tip 3: Educate

There’s only so much that you, as owner or manager, can do to stop spills in a ‘hands on’ fashion. You can provide the right spill kit, but after that so much is then down to the way employees go about their tasks. Are their behaviours correct? If not, why not? Identifying what’s being done incorrectly is the first step to having it done in a proper manner.

Tip 4: Monitor

Make checking spill control as natural as looking in the mirror when you’re driving. As you’re walking the job talking to people, keep an eye out for spills, drips and leaks. Draw people’s attention to them, and have them fixed. Make a mental note of what you saw, and who you asked to do something about it. The next time you’re passing the same spot, look for improvement. A production plant manager once told me he’d tasked an employee to fix leaks in the roof that were causing puddles on the floor. He couldn’t see the roof, but knew the work was being done. “Maintenance bills are up, but the puddles have disappeared,” he said.

Tip 5: Get in the groove

Spill prevention and control is a mind-set. It’s a management task, and should be treated as such. It needs to be incorporated into daily routines in just the same way that safety needs to be part of ‘business as usual’. Remember that in industry ‘Health and Safety’ was once simply ‘Safety’, and is now evolving into ‘Safety, Health and Environment’. Effective spill control makes a contribution to all three of those.

Happy tenth birthday to the UK Spill Association

Next month the UK Spill Association celebrates its tenth birthday with a conference and exhibition at Donington Park.

The association has created the event to be both a spills forum and a vehicle to showcase the capability of the UK spill industry, and will be putting oil spills into sharp focus. The theme is ‘Oil Spills will always be with us as long as we live with oil; you need to know what we do and how we can help’.

A two-day conference programme is planned, and although the main focus will be oil spills, other areas will be examined as well. Science and industry workshops are promised alongside exhibits by spill industry companies, demonstrations of spill response techniques and equipment.

A spokesman for the Association said: “The event recognises that networking is a vital area for government, agencies and industry. A networking buffet supper will be held at the event, which includes a free tour of the famous Grand Prix Collection of racing cars and other historical transport exhibits on display at Donington Park.”

The UK Spill Association is a not-for-profit body supported by the Environmental and Maritime Agencies of the United Kingdom. Anyone can register interest as a delegate, or book exhibition space, by contacting UKSpill at info@ukspill.org

This event will be of significant interest to the following organisations:
UK Governmental Environmental & Maritime Agencies, Fire & Rescue Services, Local Authorities, Highways Agency, National Trust, Natural England, Public Health England, Premiam, Oil Distribution Industry, National Grid, Energy Distribution Network Operators, Water UK, Network Rail, CL:AIRE, Comah, Police Services, Energy Industries, Ministry of Defence, Safety Industries, Insurance
Industry & Loss Adjusters, Solicitors, UKSpill Members, Researchers and Academics.

The event takes place on Tuesday 14th and Wednesday 15th October. Further information, including a full programme and delegate rates, is available here.

Happy Birthday