Put That Spills Emergency Plan To The Test

11 July 2012 by Daryl Tunningley

Companies whose operations pose a potential accidental spills hazard should “take nothing for granted” when they draw up emergency action plans.

Spills expert Hugh Neatherway, who heads Cleansing Service Group’s (CSG) Spills Division, says a response plan which is prepared just in case an incident happens can’t just be “taken off the shelf and put into operation when the accident occurs.”

Mr Neatherway was speaking at a ‘Pollution Prevention and Response’ seminar organised by the North East steering group of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment in Durham.

Group chairman Marek Bidwell of BMS Services said the event tackled “a core environmental topic that has possibly been overshadowed in recent years by other trends.”

Mr Neatherway told the delegates it was essential for all companies where spills were a possibility to carry out adequate risk assessments and have comprehensive emergency response plans ready for implementation.

“But it’s just as important to take nothing for granted by assuming the plan will work when activated.  The key is to regularly review and test your system against a range of scenarios rather than just take it off the shelf and put it into operation in the hope that it’s adequate enough to deal with a real life emergency.”

He said CSG, which is a founder member of the UK Spill Association and runs its own 24-hour spills emergency service, handled many volatile materials in its work as a hazardous waste manager.

“We leave nothing to chance and our crisis management plan has been drawn up to cope with a whole range of different emergencies and then tried out in a series of dummy runs.”

He advised companies to prepare for possible spills emergencies by –

  • Devising a comprehensive spills procedure after a realistic risk assessment
  • Keeping adequate spills kits on site and in good condition
  • Training staff in spills emergency procedures
  • Understanding the materials kept on site – and their potential dangers
  • Signing up to an emergency response company call-out scheme

He also urged companies not “to believe everything you’re told” by emergency response service operators. “Some of them will promise a two-hour response. But in reality it is sometimes difficult to meet those standards, so it’s sensible to have your own tested action plan ready to go while you await the arrival of the experts with specialist equipment and highly trained operatives.”

Picture: Oil contamination clean-up using floating booms and absorbent pads.