ompanies that handle chemicals and hazardous substances must have a spill control plan in place. Spill kits, available in several sizes and types, are part of such plans. According to the RCRA, a Spill Prevention, Control, Countermeasure Plan must comply with NFPA 30 for flammable and combustible liquids and OSHA.
Although spill kits are geared toward certain substances and varying sizes of disasters, all contain absorbents. However, few absorbents can be used on all substances. Typically, an absorbent must clean up flammables, acids, oxidizing substances, water-based liquids or contaminants, or petroleum-based contaminants. Shapes and sizes range from mats that roll out to large spill berms and booms for environmental disasters.
Nevertheless, all such materials utilize adsorption, adhesion of atoms, ions, biomolecules, or molecules of a liquid or solid to a surface, to pick up a liquid, oil, or hazardous material. For industrial uses, absorbents incorporate pellets, rods, moldings, or blocks with hydrodynamic diameters of 0.15 to 0.1 mm and small pore diameter, which creates a greater surface capacity for adsorption.
Even with these characteristics, however, not all spill kits are the same. Color indicates the use of the absorbents included. White, for instance, shows that all absorbents inside are for oils. Such absorbents repel water while taking in oil. Gray indicates the absorbent is universal, or that it can be used with any other substance. A pink or yellow absorbent is designed for universal hazmat uses, which can include instances in which the substance is unknown.
Although spill kits are divided into one of these three groups, not all absorbents included are identical, and knowing how to clean up a substance depends on the right one used. In one of the four colors above, absorbents often take the form of mats, socks, or pillows. Mats, also as pads or rolls, come in variable widths. The user rolls out one and tears off enough to cover the spill. A pillow, designed for holding a high volume of liquid, is also designed for spills spread out over a greater surface area. Socks, on the other hand, are better-suited for drains to prevent the substance from entering the environment.