Are you prepared to deal with spills?

Many organisations don’t think about how they would deal with a spill until one happens, by which time it is often too late to prevent serious environmental damage and the associated costs. Stephen Mansell explains why a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach to oil spills is not only in most cases a legal obligation, but can also save organisations time and cash. Oil is the most commonly reported cause of waste pollution in the UK with the Environment Agency informed of over 5000 incidents annually. To combat the ongoing battle against oil pollution both England and Scotland have seen the introduction of Oil Storage Regulations. Some parts of the Regulations differ between the two countries and there is a growing consensus that there are areas of both regulations which could be improved and anyone storing over 200 litres or more of oil above ground may well be affected. Spill control

Under the Control of Pollution Oil Storage Regulation (England) 2001 anyone storing oil above ground in 200 litre containers or more should have them situated within a Secondary Containment System (SCS) with few exceptions, one being if the container is situated within a building, another being waste oil. Under the Scottish rules the regulations still apply to containers inside a building and include waste oil.

Proactive rather than Reactive 
Regardless of which set of regulations or legislation apply, two approaches can be taken when dealing with spills: Proactive or Reactive. The Proactive approach is to situate all containers of liquid or semi-liquid within a SCS whether indoors or outdoors, to provide adequate response equipment and keep spill kits onsite for every possible situation. The Reactive approach is to keep only limited or no Spill Kits/Absorbent material to soak up the spill after it has already occurred.

The Reactive approach has obvious disadvantages:

  • The need to rely on someone observing the spill and stopping it before it has the chance to escape into a watercourse via drainage etc.
  • Employee downtime while clearing up the spill
  • Cost of spilt liquid cannot be reclaimed
  • Disposal cost of absorbent material (hazardous waste)
  • Possible fines

The Proactive approach – containing oil at source has many benefits:

  • Liquids can be reused
  • Fines are avoided
  • Slip and trip hazards avoided

This can be shown using the following cost analysis:

• Drum of oil LUBOL 32 Hydraulic Oil £215.25
• Cost to soak up 205 litres with a 250 litre oil only spill kit £503.95
• Disposal cost (hazardous waste management courier) £365.00
• Plus employee costs to clear up spill
• Total cost of spill without liquid escaping into a watercourse, therefore preventing future fines, clean up costs would be in excess of £1084.20.


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