People can generally be pretty lazy – we don’t always clean up after ourselves, but it’s vital to clean up spills on any job site, as people can slip. Oil spills are especially important to clean up, as the liquid can ignite days or even weeks after seeping into the bottom of pant legs or shoes.
Workers on an oil rig are likely wearing FR coveralls or bibs, but those working in garages, whether commercial, residential, or industrial, often don’t perform mechanical work in FR clothing.
Regardless of where it occurs, cleaning even the most minor oil spill and properly disposing of all oil is important for personal and environmental health. The faster it’s cleaned, the easier it’ll be.
Absorbing Oil Spills
Fresh oil is easiest cleaned off a surface by absorbing it. Some common materials used for absorbing oil are Fuller’s earth (commonly found in cat litter), alkaline degreaser, and enzyme cleaners.
Oil can stain concrete, so if your workplace is concerned with their appearance, there are ways to release stains. Absorb oil quickly by spraying one of the above on the spill, scrub it, and pat dry with a paper towel or disposable rag.
Fuller’s earth consists primarily of clay minerals like hydrous aluminum silicates, montmorillonite, kaolinite and attapulgite. Alkaline degreasers typically contain solvents, strong bases like sodium hydroxide, or potassium hydroxide, and surfactants. Enzyme cleaners vary widely and should be used only for the specific type of oil spilled.
Preparing for Spills
Preparation is key in cleaning minor spills. Only perform work with oil and oily parts in designated areas. Keep these areas well-stocked with oil protection and cleaning equipment. Anyone working on an oil rig or in a garage should be trained regularly on oil cleanup procedures and be provided the proper FR gear.
These oil spill processes will satisfy all OSHA requirements for worker safety on the job, including NFPA 2112 and 2113.