Workplace Solutions Absorbents Spills

Preparing for a spill

What really matters when selecting an absorbent product?

Responding is Bobby Ennis, SPC commercial business leader, Brady Corp., Milwaukee.

You’re prepared for a spill, but do you have the right stuff? Before you answer, ask yourself:

What spilled?

Most of the time, you know what substance spilled. So it’s easy to match the absorbent to your liquid type. For example, if oil spilled, you would use an oil-only sorbent. If it’s a mystery spill, the best policy is to use a universal sorbent.

How big is your spill?

For small, steady spills, such as leaks from older machinery, using a pad or section of a roll is fine. However, if the leak is continuous, use a pillow because it can absorb far more than a pad. But if a forklift punctures an oil drum, this is another story entirely. The priority is to contain the leak and prevent it from spreading by using socs to create a barrier, and then using pads or rolls to capture the spill.

Where is your spill?

Location is critical – and so is the absorbent you choose. If your spill is in a walkway, use an absorbent that’s colorful and sturdy. A highly visible absorbent, combined with caution signs, can reduce the risk of tripping. If the spill occurs in a heavy traffic area, select a product with spunbond coverstock because it’s extra durable. If your spill is under machinery or out of the walking area, you’d be fine with a lighter-weight product that’s less durable.

How fast of a response is needed?

Dangerous chemicals and spills need to be cleaned up fast. This means keeping the right amount of absorbents close by. Ideally, your absorbents should be in proportion to the largest container, by volume, in the area. The best products in areas such as these are kits that can store all products needed to contain and capture a spill. For liquids that aren’t harmful, make sure that your first responders have easy access to the storage areas where the sorbent materials are kept.

Whether you’re an employee who works in the shop or part of a maintenance team, make sure you have the right stuff. Choose absorbents that match your spill type and are the right size for job, and keep them in the area.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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