Too few business and organisations provide the right equipment to dispose of substances properly or how to handle spills. As a result, even small spills plague businesses, schools, hospitals and other institutions. By Isaac Rudik at Compliance Solutions Canada – A Nimonik Affiliate
An Ontario laboratory, known for poor storage and handling of caustic and acidic substances, was fined numerous times by Ministry of Labour for not cleaning up its act. Even after several such actions, a worker was using “aqua regia” – a toxic mix of concentrated hydrochloric and nitric acid which forms a powerful oxidizing medium for cleaning tubes – and failed to follow standard safety procedures for cleaning up. When he finished, he simply poured about 60ml of residue in a waste bottle. The worker capped it securely and placed the bottle in a flammable storage cabinet.
Not surprisingly, what could go wrong did go wrong.
The bottle burst roughly an hour after it was placed in the cabinet, breaking an adjacent bottle of pyridine, which leaked onto the floor. Fortunately, nothing caught fire or exploded but the spill dissolved tiles while creating a lingering foul odour that lasted for days.
When questioned by his supervisors and ministry investigators the morning after the incident, the man shrugged his shoulders and said he’d never been given the proper equipment needed to store the chemical after he finished using it, or what to do if it spilled. He thought he’d done the right thing: He poured it into a safety bottle, tightened the cap and put it in a cabinet he thought was safe.
The fact is that while nearly every worker is carefully shown how to use toxic and hazardous materials, not nearly enough effort is put into providing the right equipment to dispose of substances properly or how to handle a spill. As a result, toxic spills – occasionally large but most often small – plague businesses, universities, schools, hospitals and other institutions. Keep Reading.