Spill response on the farm, Part 1

Farmers depend on all sorts of tools to get the job done. Chemicals are just another tool farmers use to keep farm machinery running, keep livestock and crops healthy and to ensure farms operate at optimal performance. However, there is a potential for spills or leaks wherever crop protection products, cleaning supplies, fuel, livestock medications or other chemicals are stored and used.

Planning, developing and implementing a spill response will minimize the potential for injury, environmental impact, cleanup and replacement costs.

Develop a plan

The first thing to do is plan, including developing an emergency response plan (ERP), acquiring necessary supplies and developing appropriate safe work procedures (SWPs) for handling and using each kind of chemical.

Developing an emergency response plan includes the following:

  • Assessing job tasks
  • Identifying hazards and risks
  • Planning what to do in case of an emergency

As part of an ERP, create and update a chemical inventory and gather and keep safety data sheets (SDS) current (within three years). An ERP needs to factor in situations that may affect people in the area, such as a fire or other situations that may require evacuation. An ERP template can be found at the CASA website.

Create an inventory list and purchase supplies using the ERP and information found on each chemical’s SDS. The inventory list should include items like proper personal protective equipment (PPE), spill kit and emergency eyewash information. Also found on the SDS is information on proper storage. Following this advice is essential in preventing spills. Keep in mind that the inventory list should be reviewed and supplies restocked regularly. Ensure everyone on the farm knows where to find these supplies and how to use them.

Develop safe work procedures based on job tasks. These procedures outline how to perform job tasks safely from start to finish and include information including required PPE and its proper use. Details on how to develop SWPs can be found as a PDF at the CASA website.

Make use of secondary containments

Secondary containment should be in place whenever possible for all stored chemicals. Secondary containment mitigates the effects of a spill by containing contents to a defined area. Secondary containment also helps make any necessary cleanup easier.

For smaller volumes of chemicals, a drip tray may be all that is needed. For large, bulk storage, a berm system or double-walled containers might be used as secondary containment options. Whenever practical, engineering the risk out of a spill altogether is the preferred method of prevention (e.g. ensuring a fully enclosed system).

Create a preventive maintenance schedule. This schedule will be purposeful and provide the incentive to review and repair equipment, plumbing or secondary containment.

Once these plans have been developed, it is now time to implement them.

Everyone on the farm who handles or uses chemicals needs to be trained in WHMIS 2015/Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), SWPs and ERPs. This training is a legislated duty of the employer in all provinces. It is strongly recommended that SWPs and ERPs are reviewed and practised regularly to ensure proficiency when they are needed.

Adequate supervision ensures that job tasks are being performed safely and SWPs are being followed. The supervisor should lead by example, promote and encourage compliance of SWPs.

Performing routine and regular inspections and preventive maintenance are essential. Following the preventive maintenance schedule, inspect product containers for proper labels and conditions, and look at plumbing, secondary containment or any equipment. Note any defects and take corrective action to prevent a spill or leak.

Facility inspections should also include a general inspection of chemical storage areas. For example, look for hazardous conditions such as leaking containers or unvented storage for propane.

Part 2 of this feature, which will appear in the next issue of Grainews, will take a further look at spill response procedures for a spill cleanup.

Robert Gobeil for the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association

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