Teaching Common Sense
|Response / Training|
Cliff gives practical advice, simple tips to frontline workers
Cliff Holland believes in common sense when it comes to cleaning up chemical spills.
If petroleum has spilled and is heading for the sewer he recommends using vehicle floor mats, ladders, even raincoats to make a dike. If it has gotten into a creek then piping and perhaps a real estate sign or two covered with plastic sheeting will help moderate the flow.
"I teach people to use whatever is around. I try to teach what to do in the first two hours, when you don't have supplies, equipment or man power on hand," says Mr. Holland of Spill Management Inc.
He uses water and popcorn to show how to divert, dike and contain spills. Popcorn simulates the action of oil in water ideally, he says, "If the exercise fails, at least we've fed the birds."
Since starting his company in June of 1989 Mr. Holland has taken his site specific training to companies and organizations all across Canada and put over 8000 students through a course. He has taught municipal employees how to contain a 22,700 litres (5,000 gal.) petroleum spill in eight minutes, laboratory technicians how to vent fumes from the chemical spill using hose from a domestic dryer and hydro generating station workers how to seal off spilled PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls) with plain old plastic tarp. He has even taught school children how to contain spilled liquid.
He also teaches his students just what 45,400 litres (10,000 gal.) of petroleum looks like when a carelessly constructed dike doesn't hold.
"It's a matter of training, pre-planning and reacting properly to the spill," he says."It doesn't have to be fancy, or have expensive equipment. You can be very effective with very basic supplies."
Mr. Holland has been in the environmental business since 1976 when he helped set up a waste disposal company for a friend in the pharmaceutical industry who was upset that blood from used syringes was being tossed into the garbage. Later he worked for a group of companies handling the treatment, hauling and clean-up of laboratory and industrial waste.
He helped establish Canada's first transfer sites for chemical waste from laboratories, operated central Ontario's first dewatering and fixation plant and negotiated Canada's first household hazardous waste day program. He was also a consultant for a community college's safety and environment program.
"After being on spills I found the worker at the site who had some idea of what to do could make a difference," he says. His students can vary in cleanup skill from hightly trained firefighters and oil company response teams to workers with no previous training. Most spills, he says are around eight gallons and are handled internally, which is why he prefers to work on-site. "I don't waste time training people on things they'll never have to deal with," he says.
The nerve centre of his training programs is his trucks. They are equipped with basic supplies including a small library of reference books on chemicals, their treatment and disposal. "If a worker is aware of what the product is and how it reacts when it goes on the floor it can be a tremendous help."
There are hard hats, overalls, enough plastic sheeting to tarp a truck or boom a river, empty drums, sorbent material including some that will suppress vapours, and several plastic hand pumps. "It's better to have six or seven of the same type rather than carrying several different types of pumps," he says. There is also a testing station on board the larger truck for illustrating chemical reactions. Training sessions may last from half a day to several days depending on the complexity of the situation and chemicals involved.
Other training programs start from the disaster level and work down, he says, but if training in the basics...how to control, dike, contain, suppress vapours and decontaminate... are neglected a spill can be made worse.
Mr. Holland believes mismanagement of a spill sometimes stems from the inexperience of the responders who may have rarely worked with chemicals in a spill situation. He says while the public is right to be concerned, the dangers are sometime exaggerated. "In some cases the amount of exposure is the equivalent of putting vinegar on French fries," he says.
Cliff thoroughly enjoys his training sessions. "It's fun helping groups of individuals identify their tasks and show them that they can do something."
(Edited from an article by Kate Barlow, the Hamilton Spectator)
Address: 45 Upper Mt. Albion Rd. Stoney Creek, Ontario L8J 2R9 • Web Site: http://www.spillmanagement.ca