WSI Logistics Succeeds at Emergency Response in Allentown - Oct 2018

Among the services offered at WSI’s facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania, employees move a range of potentially hazardous chemicals in support of bulk chemical transfer and chemical handling operations for clients. At WSI, employee safety comes before all else, and there are a range of processes in place to make sure that leaks and spills are handled quickly and efficiently to minimize risks to personnel.

The spill response plan was recently tested at Allentown to give employees practical experience at cleaning up hazardous material. Spill drills are conducted annually at each WSI site that stores and handles chemicals.

 “The main purpose of the drill is to not only test each employee’s knowledge, but also to test our response plan,” says Scott Buber, director of operations for WSI. “Each employee plays a vital role in the plan—whether they are a first responder or simply evacuating the building and heading towards the rally point. Our plan was created to ensure we keep our employees, contractors, and environment safe; as well as to mitigate the identified hazards in or around our facility.”

The Spill Drill

The drill was unannounced and occurred just after the Allentown team completed a week’s worth of mandatory chemical training. While employees may suspect a drill is coming, they are not aware of the exact time or nature of the event. In preparation, they go through regular training, including an eight-hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) course.

 For this year’s drill, managers used a mixture of household chemicals to simulate a hazardous chemical spill, and the staff sprang into action. When the facility’s alarm went off, manager trainee Owen Stauber gathered his team and instructed them to don their personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes chemical-resistant Tyvek suits, gloves, and respirators. Once the staff was ready to safely address the spill, they took the following action:

  • Two employees, employing the buddy system, entered the chemical release zone and reported the situation via radio to Owen—who was now the designated Incident Commander.
  • The simulated product was a chemical called Startex Fix DS 100. Owen pulled the product SDS, using the steps within to properly guide his team through proper clean-up for this specific chemical.
  • Using the spill response kit, salvage drum, and appropriate PPE to isolate the spill – a drum that appeared to have tipped from a bottom rack, and a pool of liquid on the warehouse floor of the general storage area.
  • The first responders laid out absorbent socks around the puddle to ensure it did not spread any further. Following the SDS, Owen told the responders that the product did not require neutralization, at which point the team covered the spill in absorbent material.
  • The chemical-soaked material was transferred to a recovery drum and moved into a safe disposal area, at which point the All Clear alarm was sounded.

 After-Action Review

The Allentown staff was able to successfully clean up the spill, while also gaining practical experience beyond their standard classroom training. During the After-Action Review, employees made the following recommendations to make clean-up even more efficient in the future:

  •  Communication. Keep response team radios on a separate channel from the general warehouse. Team must speak clearly and concisely to drive efficiency.
  • Attentiveness. Response team must keep an eye on each other’s PPE. One Tyvek suit tore during the operation, and the team also recommended keeping gloves tucked under Tyvek sleeves – possibly with duct tape – to increase safety.
  • Personal Protective Equipment. The team recommended having PPE prepared in advance—sorted by proper size for and stored in an easily accessible place for each employee to improve overall reaction speed.
  • Leadership. Besides the Incident Commander, the team also recommended designating a secondary leader within the spill zone to assign tasks and maintain organization at the spill site.

 Safety First

Unannounced drills like the one at Allentown help our staff gain practical insight into emergency response, and the recommendations offered by those involved help us to continually improve our processes and procedures.

 Offering a quick and safe response to chemical spills is part of WSI Logistics’ larger commitment to employee safety and environmental stewardship. We’re proud of our Allentown staff for successful completion of another annual drill, and we remain confident that they can handle a real emergency with professionalism and distinction.