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Understanding Your Environmental Responsibilities

04/07/2016 Understanding Your Environmental Responsibilities

Pollution Prevention and Understanding Your Environmental Responsibilities

If you cause pollution or allow it to occur, you may be committing a criminal offence. Significant fines can be incurred and in the worst cases, offenders can even be sent to prison. Pollution can happen both accidentally and deliberately and occurs when substances released to water, land or air have a harmful effect on the environment. Not only can pollutants put human health at risk, they can also affect drinking water supplies, business activities, wildlife and our enjoyment of the environment.

Many different substances used in workplaces can cause pollution, such as petrol, diesel, oil and chemicals. When hydrocarbons such as these get into waterways, they poison water life and any animals that drink from them. Hydrocarbons on sites can also soak into the groundwater, a source of human drinking water. It is therefore crucial to understand your premises and how your activities could affect the environment and cause pollution. Equally, it is important to consider the use of environmental or pollution prevention products that could help minimise the risk.

Make Sure Dirty Water Leaves Your Premises Properly
Many workplaces produce dirty water which could potentially cause pollution if it entered rivers, streams, ditches or groundwater. Dirty water can come from rainwater run-off from dirty areas of your premises and liquid waste or trade effluent from your business activities. Hazardous liquids such as fuel and oil can spill, leak or release their contents during refuelling activities or in the event of a fire or flood.

Identify Sources of Potential Environmental Harm
Fuel, oil and chemicals are obvious sources of potential environmental harm, but other materials such as food and drink products and detergents can cause significant pollution. You should reduce the likelihood of pollution happening by considering what hazards are associated with the materials you have, where you store them and how you handle them. You should store all potentially polluting substances on leak-free, impermeable surfaces.

Containing Leaks and Spills of Hazardous Liquids
It is essential to put measures in place to reduce the likelihood and severity of accidental spills and leaks of hazardous liquids, as they can potentially cause serious health and safety and environmental problems and if spillages are not controlled and damaging consequences occur, severe penalties can be incurred. Spill kits of different capacities are widely available to enable organisations to deal with spillages rapidly, and above all, safely. Employees should know where to find spill kits and understand how to use them properly. Spill kit contents should also be checked on a regular basis.

Traditional Methods of Spill Containment
Traditional drip trays and absorbent materials are typically used under plant machinery and oil and fuel containers to contain spills and drips. Although these products present a convenient and cost-effective means of ensuring environmentally practices on site, some absorbent products absorb oil to a point whereby they can become saturated and overflow as there is nowhere for the oil to safely flow. This leads to the rapid disposal and purchase of replacements.

Modern Methods of Spill Containment
There are now modern means of spill containment available that overcome the flaws associated with traditional methods. One such product is the EnviroPad which utilises unique polymer technology to capture spills and drips from workplace activities when carrying out on-site repair and maintenance, storage or refuelling of plant, tools, generators, groundcare or similar equipment, or when storing oil or fuel containers on-site. Hydrocarbons are transformed into a dry, rubber-like solid within minutes, preventing the release of contaminated water or hazardous fluids into the workplace or local environment. Unlike alternative products that work by absorbing oil like a sponge, the EnviroPad goes one step further by retaining hydrocarbons in the polymer membrane. Potentially hazardous and polluting hydrocarbons are retained and ‘locked in’ to the polymer, eliminating the risk of pollution entering the environment.

Available in three sizes, the largest of which can retain up to 28 litres of hydrocarbons, the EnviroPad comprises a membrane made up of two layers of a geo-textile with state-of-the-art polymers embedded between the layers. This hybrid creates a filtration fabric that encapsulates hydrocarbons and forces them to unsaturated areas of the fabric. This fabric allows water to pass through it, yet it solidifies hydrocarbons almost instantly upon contact.

The EnviroPad is lightweight and when not in use, can be easily rolled or folded and stored away. It can be repeatedly used until it is completely solidified, at which point it can simply be disposed of into standard hazardous waste bins. The large EnviroPad is suitable for seating larger plant that can potentially leak oil, such as lighting towers and compressors, and equipment can be easily wheeled or placed onto it.

The innovative properties and environmental benefits of the EnviroPad have been recognised by the fact that the product has won the Environmental Innovation Award at the North West Green Hero Awards and the highest Gold Level accolade in the ‘Pollution Prevention’ category of the Green Apple Environmental Awards for Best Practice. In short, these modern methods of spill containment present the ideal solution for dealing with hydrocarbons for any organisation that has the need to store plant equipment or oil and fuel containers on-site.

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