If other people are cleaning up a spill in your work area, should you pitch in and help? Our natural inclination is to help others, but in this case you should leave the area unless you are specifically assigned to be on the cleanup team. A team has assigned roles, has undergone specific training, and uses the correct methods and equipment. It's also coordinated by a command structure. A group that lacks any one of these attributes can make things worse.

A cleanup team typically performs the following sequence of functions:

  • Leak stoppage. They operate disconnects, valves, and other controls to isolate leaking fluid (or gas) from its source.
  • Containment. They build flow barriers, such as dams made of "pigs" so the leakage doesn't spread over a larger area.
  • Ventilation. They exhaust and/or filter the air based on the instructions of the MSDS for the spilled substance.
  • Removal. Using approved pickup materials, they move the mess from the floor to approved containers for disposal.