Special Topics in Environmental Management

7 Tips for Selecting PPE for Spill Preparedness

Here are some tips for selecting PPE for spill preparedness.

1. Don’t go overboard: Some employers tend to buy the highest level protection available for everything instead of doing the research to be more precise in PPE choices.While it would mean you have the correct protection level for all manner of spills, it’s a very expensive way of providing protection.

2. Gather the information: To make proper PPE selection for spill cleanup, you need to know which chemicals you have on- site, how they are used and handled, where and how they are stored, and in what form they are stored (powder, liquid, etc.).

3. Decide which spills your facility will handle: While all spills must be cleaned up, this doesn’t always have to be done by your employees.After evaluating chemicals in your facility, you may decide to have an outside hazardous materials cleanup contractor handle spills.Or you might decide your employees will clean up certain materials, and a cleanup contractor will handle all others.Whichever course of action you choose, it’s important that it is clearly communicated to workers so they know their roles.

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4. Select your PPE: Choose PPE to provide protection for the most hazardous of the spills your employees will handle.You can usually choose PPE made from material that could be used in many different situations.However, take care to ensure that in all potential spill scenarios, the PPE material is compatible with the spilled chemicals.If not, you may need to have more than one type of PPE.

5. Assess what you have on hand: Chances are you already have the PPE you need for spills on-site because employees wear it as part of their regular work.So you don’t need to purchase separate PPE for spill cleanup; simply make sure that those involved in spill cleanup know exactly which PPE they should use and where it is located.

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6. Don’t forget size: Gloves, jumpsuits, and other PPE come in different sizes.Don’t buy size “medium” for everything.For jumpsuits and other garments, bigger is better.Garments can be fitted using duct tape if they are too large.If they are too small, though, they’ll be of no use and risk employee exposure if strained seams fail.Gloves are fairly inexpensive, and keeping multiple sizes on hand generally won’t cost much.

7. Take into account the number of responders: Having one set of PPE when spills require two or more persons to properly accomplish the cleanup makes little sense.Be sure you have complete sets for those you would expect to be involved in cleanup.

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