If you’ve ever had to clean up spilled engine oil in the garage at home, you’ll know that using ordinary rags or cloths can be a dirty, slow job. That may be OK in a domestic setting, but in the workplace, you’ll need a quicker and safer approach.
For one thing, an oil slip is extremely slippery, and just one small patch on the floor could cause a nasty slip or trip.
Then there’s the risk of fire and the environmental hazards, not to mention the disruption to work if there’s no ready way to deal with the spill. It may not be an accident on the scale of a big marine oil disaster, but it’s still a workplace hazard that needs managing.
Luckily, an oil spill kit is a great way to clear up the spillage.
And if you’ve ever seen an oil spill kit being used, you’ll know how fast the highly absorbent pads and socks in the kit get to work.
Without rushing, the whole task can be completed in four or five minutes.
The kit is clearly labelled in a bright yellow wheelie bin or shoulder bag, so whoever is trained to deal with the clear up can quickly grab it, along with gloves and other PPE, and go straight to the spot.
The absorbent socks are placed around the spill to stop the oil spilling out any further, and the absorbent pads are put over the oil to soak it up, fast. Then the oil-soaked pads are put into the bag that comes as part of the kit, ready for safe disposal.
Job done – just make sure you have a refill so you’re ready for any future spills.
There are two kinds of spill kits that can deal with oil, and it’s good to know how they work and which one is right for your workplace.
First, there’s the Oil Spill Kit – that’s the one with white absorbent pads and socks. The pads and socks only soak up oil, while repelling water, which means it can be used where the oil spill has been contaminated with water, or outside.
It’s all down to a clever bit of materials technology. The pads and socks are packed with synthetic sorbents, special polymers that attract oil molecules (‘oleophilic’) while repelling water (‘hydrophobic’). So rather than becoming saturated with water, the absorbent material goes to work soaking up the oil and nothing else.
The white absorbent pads and socks also change colour as the oil is sucked up, so it’s obvious when the material has reached saturation point and is ready to be disposed of.
It’s this hydrophobic, or water-repellent, quality that means you can use the Oil Spill Kit to clear up oil spills from ponds, streams, water tanks and pools, without the pads and socks becoming a soggy, waterlogged mess.
You can use the Oil Spill Kit with hydraulic oil, engine oil or lubricating oil as well as other hydrocarbons, including fuel and solvents.
If the oil spill hasn’t been contaminated with water, then our Universal Spill Kit can be used – these have grey socks and pads. This kit will soak up anything non-hazardous, making it useful for clearing up water, coolants, drinks, paint and other spilled liquids, including oil.
For hazardous chemicals, you’ll need the Chemical Spill Kit, which is designed to soak up chemicals, acids and alkalis, making it a useful piece of kit for a COSHH-compliant workplace.
If you have liquids on site, you’ll want to have the right size spill kit on site ready to clear up any spills. And choosing the right one comes down to knowing how large you think the spill might be.
The kits come in different sizes, based on how big the spill is expected to be: 50 litres up to spills of 240 litres. They are packed in either a wheelie bin or shoulder bag, depending on how much kit they need to house.
We recommend ensuring that you have enough provisions to soak up around a quarter of all of the liquid in storage.
Like a fire extinguisher, or a first aid station, spill kits are an invaluable piece of safety equipment for dealing with emergencies. Hopefully you’ll never need to use it, but when you do, it’s there, ready to swing into action.