There is never a good time for disaster to strike. It can happen in even the most efficient and careful of workplaces but that does not mean you can’t be prepared to handle it. If you cannot prevent the hazardous disaster, the next best thing is to have an emergency response and clean up plan.
Hazardous disasters can come in all forms, including:
- Sewage and septic tank backups
- Chemical spill or leak
- Trauma and crime scene
- Asbestos exposure
- Tanker rollover
Whatever your catastrophe, it is important to follow the 4 steps below.
1. Identify Hazards
We all know a disaster when we see it – it is any sudden, unexpected event that causes great damage or loss, and is a headache for your business. What makes it hazardous is the presence of materials which pose an unreasonable risk of harm to people, property or the environment.
The handling and disposal of hazardous materials is a heavily regulated industry that requires adherence to very specific and stringent procedures. For this reason, it is important to quickly identify the presence of such materials and to call in properly trained experts to contain and remove them.
- In the case of sewage and septic tank backups, the wastewater can contain bacteria and germs which can cause and spread diseases.
- Chemical spills or leaks can have diverse effects depending on the chemical involved, the size of the spill or leak and the location of the incident.
- Gases are particularly dangerous as they are air born and can thus travel fast and far without necessarily leaving obvious traces.
- Some can be corrosive or flammable, threatening the safety of everything in the vicinity.
- Others can be toxic or poisonous, threatening the health of people and other living beings both directly and indirectly.
- Trauma and crime scenes can contain blood and other bodily fluids which are capable of transmitting diseases.
- Exposing asbestos is a hazard because the fibers can be easily inhaled and can thereby scar the lungs and even cause cancer.
- The effects of tanker rollovers, like chemical spills, depend on the nature of the substance in the tank, and the size and location of the spill. The environment can be severely damaged if the tank carried crude oil, petrochemicals, other fuels and even wastewater.
2. Protect People
Whenever a hazardous disaster occurs, the first priority is always to ensure the safety of the people present.
- Limit exposure to the hazards as far as possible; do not risk becoming contaminated in an effort to contain the disaster.
- Alert all other people in the immediate area.
- Ensure that any persons who do become contaminated or infected receive the necessary medical attention.
- Call HWDS and stand by in a safe location.
After ensuring the safety of people, the next step is to contain the disaster so as to limit any damage. Your ability to do this will depend on the type of disaster and your training.
In the case of a trauma scene, for example, it may be possible to contain the disaster by closing off a part of the building and restricting access to the scene.
In most other cases, however, it is unlikely that your staff will be able to safely contain the hazards. For example, in the case of a major chemical leak or septic tank overflow, it may be dangerous to come into contact with the spill or even to breathe the surrounding air.
4. Call the Experts: HWDS
Therefore, the safest approach is always to move to a safe location and call the hazardous waste professionals.