Welcome to our fourth installment in this very important series, Incident or Accident Handling Procedures. The fact is, as a professional truck driver, you may find yourself in any one of these situations, so you need to be qualified and know what the procedures are when the moment comes.
Today we are going to take a look at how you should handle spill prevention and suppression if you are a hazardous material trucker. Making sure you can prevent or contain a spill is vital not only to your safety, but to that of the public and environment.
Preventing spills of hazardous materials includes the following:
- Fully inspect the containers when they are loaded and refuse any that seem questionable.
- Properly secure the containers. If you are in a tanker, make sure all the valves are closed and covers in place.
- Drive safely.
What You Should Do
If you are in a situation where there has been a release of hazardous material – whether as a result of an accident or equipment failure – immediately protect the scene and contact emergency services.
If possible, take whatever steps you can to contain the spill. Your company will likely have specific procedures outlined on how to contain or mitigate a spill should one occur.
Your immediate concern should be getting everyone else (including yourself) far enough away from the hazardous material. How far depends on the material involved and how hazardous it is.
The shipper should have provided emergency response paperwork with the load. You are required to keep it in specific locations when transporting hazardous material. Those locations include:
- Within your reach and clearly visible.
- On the seat or in a pouch on the driver’s door.
The Emergency Response Guidebook
Another great resource for information on how to handle a spill is the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG). The ERG provides response information for all hazardous materials outlined by the DOT.
Because of how it is designed, the ERG is fairly easy to use. First, you will need to know the name and/or four digit number associated with the material being shipped. If for some reason this isn’t available, the class placard on the vehicle can be used to get some basic information.
Once you know what material is involved, your next step will be to use the yellow, blue or white pages in the ERG. Knowledge about the material you are dealing with will be used to locate the correct “guide,” which is in the orange pages.
The orange pages provide information on:
- Potential hazards, including fire and explosion hazards, and health hazards.
- Public safety considerations.
- Immediate isolation instructions, distances, and protective clothing.
- Emergency response information, including what to do if a material is burning.
The key thing to remember about the ERG is that it is intended to provide initial response information, but that is it. It will explain how to clean up and dispose of contaminated materials.
If you do find yourself in a situation where a spill has occurred, you need to know the steps to containing it. Keep the following in mind as you try to mitigate the problem:
- Park the vehicle over a hard surface.
- Use dirt or some other material to restrict the movement of the spill.
- Ensure the material does not enter the sewer or another waterway.
In the end, the most important thing is to be constantly aware of what you are transporting and the hazards involved with its transportation. Always make sure you read shipment paperwork and emergency response information.
The bottom line is that it is imperative you know what to do in the case of an emergency involving hazardous materials. Only by following these guidelines will you ensure the health and safety of you, those around you and the environment.