Spill ContainmentPersonal Protection

What is Secondary Spill Containment? [OSHA guidelines + Product Recommendations]

6 Mins read
Industrial Spill Control


All You Need to Know About Secondary Spill Containment Systems and Hazardous Materials

What are Chemical Spills?

Any accidental release of hazardous substances into the environment in the form of gas, liquid, or solid can be termed an industrial spill. When industries handle chemicals, the risk, as well as the consequences of spilling, are both high, because chemicals are highly reactive in nature, and are in some cases, explosive as well.

Hazardous materials or hazardous liquids, when spilled, often create toxic flames which can easily spread and ignite, thereby resulting in lasting damage to people and property. Moreover, the hazardous waste released as a result of the spill can adversely impact the environment for prolonged periods of time.

Importance of Spill Control

spill containment system for hazardous materials

In case of spills, occupational safety and environmental preservation are faced with unwanted consequences. It is for this very reason that spill containment is considered to be a crucial responsibility for all industries which handle any material, that when spilled, can harm the safety and health of the employees and other people.

Some of the industries where the use of flammable liquids and either hazardous materials is commonplace include oil and gas, automotive, electric power, construction, railroad companies, and shipping.

What is Spill Containment?

Spill Containment
Spill Containment

Any measure taken in a bid to control spills, or better, prevent spills from taking place can be referred to as spill containment. Theoretically, spill containment is rather simple. Using any material such as metal, concrete, plastic, or resin, which is specifically designed to prevent the hazardous material from leaving its primary area so that no harm is caused to the immediate environment, including the people and property, is spill containment.

Since spill containment can look different for different organizations based on the materials used, the regulations pertaining to spills are governed by more than a few organizations in the United States. Some of the leading organizations that lay the guidelines for spill prevention are – OSHA, EPA, US Coast Guard, NIOSH, NIEHS, and NOAA, amongst others.

OSHA’s regulations for containment systems have been carefully drafted to prevent employees from being exposed to hazardous waste in case of a spill and keep them safe from any chronic health effects such as chemical burns or sensitization.

On the other hand, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) focuses on minimizing the environmental implications caused as a result of the spill, through its Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) guidelines.

Spill Containment Program for Industrial Set Ups

If you are in a business or run an industry that handles hazardous chemicals or hazardous wastes, then you must be aware of this comprehensive spill containment program.

Spill Containment Plan

It would help if you had a spill containment plan in line with OSHA standards. While there are no strict guidelines, it is expected that you have in place a plan with due consideration to the following:

Secondary Spill Containmnent OSHA guidelines
  • The nature and size of the potential spill
  • Sufficient capacity of portable containment systems and spill containment pallet
  • Knowledge of the hazards posed by the spill to the employees, the public, and the environment
  • Containment systems that are required to prevent, contain, and control the spill
  • Responsibilities of employees in the event of the spill
  • Training required for the first responders
  • Knowledge regarding hazardous waste storage and disposal facilities

Spill Containment Training

OSHA has created the Hazardous Waste and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard to help protect employees and determine strict training criteria for those who could be exposed to hazardous substances during an emergency response. Hence, it is crucial for the first responding employees to be certified with standard 29 CFR 1910.120.

These certified employees should have a thorough knowledge of primary and secondary containment systems so that they can easily recognize and control hazards specific to containment and cleanup. They should also be able to take the appropriate actions to protect themselves during a response.

Safety Equipment

All the planning and training related to spill containment systems can go to waste if the facility doesn’t have the required safety equipment. As per OSHA regulations, it is essential that a facility has two types of safety equipment – Spill Control Equipment and Personal Protective Equipment.

Some of the proven equipment for spill control include bulk storage containers, portable containers, storage tank systems, and spill pallet jacks etc.

Some of the needed PPE for spill response include waterproof gloves, respirators, face shields, coveralls, and boots amongst others.

Primary Spill Containment vs. Secondary Spill Containment

As the name suggests, primary containment is essentially the receptacle or the receiving vessel in which the hazardous substance is contained during normal operation. If made using appropriate material with chemical resistance, the primary containment system can confine the spill and prevents the leakage of the substance outside the container.

Primary Spill Containment vs. Secondary Spill Containment

On the other hand, the secondary containment system is designed to contain the spill, if and when the primary containment system fails to accomplish this task. The secondary containment simply acts as a safeguard and is therefore not designed to handle the full spill and needs to be paired with a primary containment system.

In a vast majority of cases, primary containment systems such as tank, silo, or other large stationary containers are immovable in nature. In other cases, the primary containers may be placed on a moving vehicle for the purpose of transportation. The choice of secondary containment systems therefore largely depends on the type of primary containers.

In case of the substance in use is a hazardous liquid or corrosive chemical, one might need a highly-engineered containment system chemically compatible with the substance at hand. On the contrary, if the potential spill hazards are low-impact, a simple system such as a plastic tub or a well-designated sump or collection area can do the trick.

Examples of Primary & Secondary Spill Containment

Some of the most common examples of primary containers are drums, totes, and tanks. In case the primary container fails, then as per the EPA regulations, it is essential to have secondary containment systems in place.

The secondary containment system in such cases should be a structure that can hold the entire volume of the spill, which is why some facilities set aside their largest container for this purpose. This can also be an outer container such as a drum storage container that prevents spills in the event the storage drum is ruptured.

Similarly, depending upon the hazardous materials and chemicals involved spill pallet jacks, decks, dikes, berms or concrete walls can help create a boundary around the primary containment, at least until the spill can be cleaned up.

Be Safe & Compliant, Prevent Spills

If your industry deals in flammable liquids and/or hazardous chemicals or other such materials, not deploying spill control measures can have some serious repercussions. Not only will it lead to immediate harm to the health and safety of your workers, but may also cause lasting environmental damage.

Sources –

  1. https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.120AppC
  2. https://www.safeopedia.com/what-are-oshas-guidelines-around-spill-containment/7/7538
  3. https://readycontainment.com/epa-secondary-containment-requirements/#:~:text=According%20to%20federal%20codes%2C%20a,marshal%20for%20your%20local%20requirement

Frequently Asked Questions About Spill Containment

  1. Does my facility need secondary containment?
    If your facility has bulk storage containers or tank systems, is equipped with mobile storage containers, refuelers, or tank trucks that store corrosive chemicals, and has dedicated loading and unloading areas for these chemicals, then it is essential for you to have secondary containment systems in place.

  2. What happens if I don’t opt for spill control measures for my facility?
    If your industry deals in flammable liquids and/or hazardous chemicals or other such materials, not deploying spill control measures can have some serious repercussions. Not only will it lead to immediate harm to the health and safety of your workers, but may also cause lasting environmental damage. In addition, you may face exorbitant fines and penalties as per federal laws and may have to incur staggeringly high cleanup costs. Moreover, your facility will also require unwanted downtime for reconstruction and renovation. Overall, the maintenance charges you incur would also rise by manifolds, not to mention, the increased cost of insurance premiums.
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