On January 9, 2014 one of the worst chemical spills in history occurred when toxic chemicals were released from a facility into the Elk River, near Charleston, West Virginia. This spill resulted in contamination of the drinking water supply of 300,000+ residents in 9 counties with drastic implications:
- Businesses had to close because they could not use the water.
- People had to pay up to $13 per shower at distant truck stops just to safely bathe.
Access to clean water should not be taken lightly. It is a life necessity and we need to respect the integrity of our neighborhoods through the practice of safe chemical storage.
If local companies think, “that only happens to other people in other cities” — think again, chances are you could be very wrong. Business Week reports that almost 10,000 tons of chemicals are spilled every year.
In 2010 alone, there were at least 6,500 domestic spills, and these are only the ones that were reported. That’s about 16 spills every day!
Below, we cover the basics of what you need to consider and how you need to act to safeguard the neighborhoods where your children and neighbors eat, drink, and play. Not an all-inclusive list, be sure to reference policies and separately ensure that your company is following required EPA guidelines, OSHA regulations, and any other laws that directly apply to your specific industry.
A Few Key Questions To Consider and Keep Documented
While there will be much to think about to be sure safety is kept top of mind, formal notation of the follow will help keep your business on the right path:
- What do you have?
- How much do you have?
- Where do you store your chemicals?
- How do you store your chemicals?
- Who is authorized to handle your chemicals ?
- What is the purpose of each chemical?
- When do you do need to use that chemical?
Formalization and documentation are critical components as a natural first step to plan safe chemical storage. Be sure to list or map out answers to the above questions for quick reference and make it known where employees can access this information readily.
This will be important for legacy planning, accountability, inventory control, and in the event of a spill, your pre-planning will help authorities respond safely and timely, which could save a life. Think like a lawyer – if you didn’t write it down, you didn’t do it and you have no proof.
Remain Complacent and Prepare for the Consequence
In an event where the water supply to 300,000 people is ruined, you are going to drown in the litigation of that spill – you could lose your business, your home, and you could even face imprisonment. If this sounds serious —yes, it could be that serious.
Complacency is a killer. Constant vigilance and attention to detail in the realm of chemical storage is not a choice, it is mandatory to avoid leaks in the process.
What steps will your business take ensure chemicals used in process are safely stored? Share additional tips or questions to consider in the comment section below.