Why Do I Need to Identify Spill Risk Areas?

A key aspect to pollution prevention and control is identifying risk; including the risk of spilling liquid that is stored or used on most sites.  This blog will discuss what spill risk areas are, how to identify them and what to do next.

What are spill risk areas?

Any area at risk of spilled material.  They can be obvious e.g. refuelling areas or oil and chemical storage areas but there are other, less obvious areas.  You should think about where you wash down vehicles, car parks and product storage areas.  You must also consider the materials that may spill.  Even if they are non-hazardous, they could have significant environmental impact, for example, milk and should be included.

How do I identify spill risk areas?

The first step is to carry out a site assessment which can be a basic site walk around or you could incorporate it into other site assessments that you already carry out.  You must ensure that you cover all activities on your site and include those that don’t happen regularly.  For some areas, you can pinpoint a clear source, for instance, a fuel tank.  In others, it will be an entire area, like a car park or warehouse.  You will also want to identify temporary spill risks, like stock that is in transit.  You should also identify the material type in each area, bearing in mind there may be multiple substances.

What do I do after I’ve identified my spill risk areas?

Once you have identified your spill risk areas, it can be very helpful to mark them on a site plan, or Site Environmental Emergency Plan (SEEP – read about them here) to give you a visual representation of what you are dealing with.  You should then assess the risks associated with each area.  This will include consideration of what the material is, what quantities are involved, how likely it is to be spilled and how it would enter the environment.  For example, a large fuel tank stored next to an area of vehicle movement close to drains would be a higher risk than a non-hazardous liquid temporarily stored in a warehouse with no drainage.

Once you have addressed the risk, you can look to reduce it.  There may be some things that you discovered that should be stopped e.g. washing down vehicle screens to surface water drains, but most areas will focus on reducing risk.  You can look at spill kits – namely their placement, size and type to ensure that if a spillage did occur, you could contain it on site.  You should make sure you have trained spill responders on site and consider an external contractor to deal with larger spillages.

Identifying spill risk areas, where pollution could originate on your site, is the first step to pollution management and control.  Identifying those areas and ensuring that the correct controls are in place to mitigate the risk will help to ensure you avoid pollution where possible.