Do you operate a gas station, carwash or have a parking lot? If the answer is yes, you are vulnerable to a hydrocarbon spill (gas, diesel, oil). The big concern here is a liability. You as the business and property owner can be held responsible for several outcomes. Here at BC Hazmat Management, we have responded to many stores, banks, gas station parking lots and loading areas cleaning up leaks from both customers vehicles and delivery vehicles. In the case of delivery vehicles, the spills can come from the vehicle itself or the product they are delivering (oil, chemicals).
What are the areas of concern where you might be liable? The first one is exposure, exposure to your staff or your customers. Many products have extremely harmful fumes that can easily overcome individuals, especially those with any breathing issues. Then there is a slip, a trip, or a fall concern, jokingly we always laugh at the cartoons of someone slipping on a banana peel, but the realities are not so comical. Representing 15 per cent of the population, according to Statistics Canada, an estimated 4.27 million Canadians aged 12 or older suffered an injury severe enough to limit their usual activities in 2009–2010, an increase from 13 per cent in 2001. Overall, falls were the leading cause of injury. About 63 per cent of seniors and one-half of adolescents were injured in falls, as were 35 per cent of working-age adults.
Slipping and falling causes muscle damage, broken bones, spinal damage and sometimes serious head injuries. Imagine how an injury like this to one of your workers will affect your compensation fees. If you, as the owner, haven’t done your due diligence in training your staff on how to clean up a spill properly, then the fines can be massive. Now there’s also the issue of customers and litigation. The costs of legal representation, increased insurance costs, settlements and the possible public relations damage can all ruin a business.
Another area that is certainly becoming more common is the environmental costs. I’m not just talking about the damage a spill can make cause to the environment as it heads into a storm drain or seeps through cracks in the pavement. I’m talking about huge fines and litigation again. Both of these are increasing every time we look at the latest reports. We are talking about 10’s of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The good news here is that appropriate training and supplies on hand can and will be, your best insurance against injuries and environmental damage. Using the BC Hazmat Management example, in one day we can teach your staff about the possible spills they will encounter, how to help prevent those spills and how to quickly and efficiently respond to the spills when they do happen.
Your staff will learn the difference between the various types of spill recovery products. They will learn about when to use pads or when to use a boom. They’ll learn about various products available to plug leaks both a malleable and mechanical. Your workers will understand the difference between the absorbent and adsorbent materials. One collects oil and water, one collects just oil. These products are a really important issue if it’s raining out and you are training to clean up an oil spill. Depending on the size of your business you should stock spill kits with pads appropriate to the risks you may encounter, proper PPE (personal protection equipment) for the staff to handle the spill. These spill kits usually come in large duffel bags or garbage sized containers and if your business is larger, you may want to have a customer spill response trailer stocked and ready for an emergency. We build those for larger retail customers as required.
With the right training and equipment, your workers will have the ability to either clean up a spill properly or at least mitigate and perhaps hold back the damage until a spill clean-up company can arrive. Having trained staff can save you thousands of dollars in fines as we mentioned earlier. To conclude, the upfront cost of training staff and having supplies is tiny in comparison to the cost of damage to either people or the environment.
John Espley is the director of Marketing & Communications at BCHAZMAT Management Ltd. BCHAZMAT is certified by the ECRC and has a full contingent of emergency response of trucks and trained staff. Both the company and the founder have received many awards for their business focusing on safety and environmental protection.
For more information, visit www.bchazmat.com