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Identifying Sensitive Environments in the Path of an Oil Spill

Posted on Mon, Oct 17, 2011

While oil spills can effect the immediate area, migrating spills that extend beyond its containment measures can greatly affect the surrounding areas and possibly damage sensitive environments. A critical step in protecting sensitive resources is identifying the presence and types of resources that are in the likely path of an oil spill.

Analyzing possible spill trajectories through topographical features, wind speeds, and water flow rates allows planners to identify which areas are most likely to be impacted by a spill.  Once these resources have been identified, decisions need to be made as to the proper protection techniques for each locale and the priority for application of resources to each sensitive site.

Sensitive_Environments_TRP.jpgTypes of sensitive areas to evaluate include, but are not limited to:

  • Ecological: Examples of sensitive species include shore birds and other water fowl, seals and other marine mammals, shellfish, commercially important wildlife, and species with limited distribution or populations. Sensitive habitats range from protected bays with marshes and tidal flats to open coast areas used as marine mammal or bird breeding sites.
  • Cultural: Areas of direct importance to humans including, but not limited to native lands, historical land marks, waterfront parks, and recreational areas.
  • Economical: Populated areas that are highly valued because of their ability to generate income. Area’s include tourist sites, real estate developments, urban developments, marinas, parks and other locations.
  • Specific sensitive resources: Specific resources that are only available at that particular location, such as specialized suppliers, water sources, transportation systems, food sources.

Once the sensitive areas in the path of a potential oil spill are identified, tactical plans and processes should be developed to limit the duration of impact. Tactical planning provide site-specific focus to emergency response plans, and applies a response perspective with specific, short-term actions and responses. These plans provide details that allow responders to best access, assess, and quickly respond to off-site spills, limiting the effects of a spill on sensitive environments.


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Tags: USCG, Pipeline, OSHA HAZWOPER, Emergency Preparedness, SPCC, OPA 90, Oil Spill, Emergency Management Program, HAZWOPER

Emergency Response Training Guidelines

Posted on Thu, Aug 04, 2011

All levels of employee training standards should meet the required associated regulatory agency minimums per applicable industry. Certain industrial facilities conducting operations involving hazardous waste are regulated under NFPA 472 and 29 CFR 1910.120. General emergency response training should be conducted for all on-site workers to provide them with the knowledge necessary to respond effective in a defensive fashion in the event of an emergency. Unless employees are specifically trained and qualified in more advanced hazardous spill response techniques, the typical employee’s trained response or function is to contain a release from a safe distance, keep it from spreading, and prevent exposures.

Training should familiarize general employees with emergency procedures, equipment, and systems. Covered topics should include, but are not limited to:

  • Incident reporting
  • Instruction and procedures for using personal protective and emergency equipment.
  • Evacuation and alarm procedures.
  • Specific roles and responsibilities in response to fires and explosions.
  • An understanding of the role of the first responder in an emergency.
  • Safe use of engineering controls and equipment.

Advanced specialized training consists of instruction and qualification for emergency response personnel through a coordinated program of classroom instruction, drills, and exercises. Specialized training includes, but is not limited to:

  • Basic hazard and risk assessment techniques.
  • Selection and use of proper personal protective equipment.
  • Basic control, containment and/or confinement operations within the capabilities of the resources available.
  • Relevant standard operating procedures and termination procedures.
  • Principles of the Incident Command System.
  • First Responder Operations Level.
  • Hazardous Materials Incident Commander.

Annual retraining should be conducted for both general and specialized training requirements. Annual refresher training should cover current industry and in-house emergency operating experience; changes in emergency operations plans, policies, procedures, and equipment. Additionally, annual training can highlight weaknesses identified through employee feedback and review of the program, drills, and exercises.

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download A Guide to HAZWOPER Training.

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Tags: Business Continuity, Emergency Preparedness, Training and Exercises, Emergency Management Program, HAZWOPER

Hazardous Spill Containment Options and Recovery Methods

Posted on Fri, Mar 18, 2011

Hazardous spills that breach secondary containment can have disastrous results on the the surrounding population and environment. Understanding containment options and recovery methods is essential in limiting the effects of a spill.

Spills reaching water typically spread faster than those on land. They also have greater potential to contaminate water supplies, to affect wildlife and populated areas, and to impact man made structures and human activities. Responses which may impact waterways should focus on source control, containing the oil near its source, and protecting sensitive areas before they are impacted. The planned strategies and response efforts must be evaluated prior to implementation during an actual event to ensure that they are appropriate for the situation.

Containment and recovery techniques that can be employed to contain and recover terrestrial and aquatic spills include, but are not limited to the following:

Containment/Diversion Berming

  • Construct berms ahead of leading edge of spill to divert spill to a containment area.
  • May cause disturbance of soils and increased soil penetration.

Blocking/Flow-Through Dams

  • Construct dam in drainage course/stream bed to block and contain flow of spill. Cover with plastic sheeting. If water is flowing, install inclined pipes during dam construction to pass water underneath dam.
  • May increase soil penetration.

Culvert Blocking

  • Prevent oil from entering culverts by blocking with plywood, sandbags, or sediments.

Interception Trench

  • Excavate ahead of advancing surface spill to contain spill and prevent further advancement; cover bottom and gradients with plastic.
  • May cause disturbance of soils and increased soil penetration

Containment Booming

  • Deploy boom to contain free oil.

Diversion Booming

  • Deploy boom at an angle to the approaching oil to divert to a less sensitive area or area better suited for collection.
  • Diverted oil may cause heavy oil contamination to the shoreline downwind and down current.
  • Anchor points may cause minor disturbance to the environment.

Exclusion Booming

  • Deploy boom to limit contamination of sensitive areas, inlets, a river mouths, creeks, water intakes, bays, or other sensitive areas.
  • Anchor points may cause minor disturbance to the environment.

Sorbent Booming

  • Used only on quiet water with minor oil contamination.
    Boom is anchored along a shoreline or used in a manner described above.
  • May utilize sorbent material as boom or pack sorbent material between multiple booms placed parallel to each other.

Other cleanup methods include natural recovery, manual removal/scraping, low-pressure flushing, warm water washing, and burning. Berms and dams are also used to protect shallow waterways.

Appropriate cleanup methods are provided in NOAA's "Shoreline Assessment Manual," and NOAA's "Options for Minimizing Environmental Impacts of Freshwater Spill Response". Regional site-specific methods should be reviewed in the appropriate Area Contingency Plan (ACP).

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Best Practices for Crisis Management.

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Tags: Pipeline, Emergency Preparedness, Crisis Management, OPA 90, Oil Spill, Training and Exercises, HAZWOPER, Chemical Industry

HAZWOPER and Hazardous Materials

Posted on Tue, Nov 09, 2010

As part of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was directed to establish programs to protect hazardous waste workers. The result of this effort was termed the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard or, as more commonly known, HAZWOPER (29 CFR 1910.120).

OSHA considers HAZWOPER to have a broad coverage in emergency response. The intent of the HAZWOPER standard is to protect workers engaged in "Emergency response operations for releases of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances without regard to the location of the hazard." (29 CFR 1910.120(a)(1)(v)). It applies to all employers who have their employees respond to an emergency situation where a hazardous substance may exist. This response requires all covered workers to comply with the OSHA HAZWOPER rules.

It is possible for some potentially harmful substances to be technically excluded from the definitions of Hazardous Materials of Substances. It should be noted that the HAZWOPER response standard is NOT limited or restricted to OSHA's list of "highly hazardous chemicals" under the PSM standard, the EPA's list of "Extremely Hazardous Substances" (EHS), or substances listed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) as a hazardous material.

  • Hazardous Materials is a general term intended to mean hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants as defined by the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP). The term includes blood borne pathogens and infectious disease as defined by OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030).

Hazardous Substance is a term that is designated by numerous agencies.

  • Any substance designated pursuant to section 311(b)(2)(A) of the Clean Water Act
  • Any element, compound, mixture, solution, or substance designated pursuant to section 102 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
  • Any hazardous waste having the characteristics identified under or listed pursuant to section 3001 of the Solid Waste Disposal Act   (but not including any waste under the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. § 6901 et seq.) that has been suspended by act of Congress)
  • Any toxic pollutant listed under section 307(a) of the Clean Water Act; any hazardous air pollutant listed under section 112 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. § 7521 et seq.)
  • Any imminently hazardous chemical substance or mixture with respect to which the EPA Administrator has taken action pursuant to section 7 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (15 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.).

These general mandates are not limited to a finite list of chemicals or established thresholds, but apply to all chemicals stored at a facility regardless of whether the stored amount is less than the published threshold quantity. Again, the overall intent of the general standard mandates is to proactively manage potential risk and impact to the environment, and assure the safety and health of all workers and potentially affected communities. 

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download our Best Practices for Crisis Management.

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Tags: Emergency Preparedness, Emergency Management Program, HAZWOPER, OSHA HAZWOPER standard training

The Misinterpretations of HAZWOPER Response Capabilities

Posted on Fri, Aug 13, 2010

Numerous organizations have emergency response policies in place based on misinterpretation of the HAZWOPER regulations. The purpose of the initial responder (operations level) of an emergency is to protect life, property, or the environment from the effects of the release, not stop the release.

Operational responders are trained to respond in a defensive fashion without actually trying to terminate the release. Their function is to contain the release from a safe distance, keep it from spreading, and prevent exposures.

Employees who are exposed or potentially exposed to hazardous substances, including hazardous waste, are required to be HAZWOPER certified.  According to OSHA, first responders at the operations level are those individuals who respond to releases, or potential releases, of hazardous substances as part of the initial response to the site.

Any employee or contractor, upon discovering a significant event or condition that requires urgent response from outside trained personnel, should take the suggested initial response actions listed below and report the emergency to the designated onsite Emergency Dispatch Center to render additional response.

Initial Response Actions:

  • Discovery of an emergency situation.
  • Warn others in the immediate area by word of mouth and activate local alarms.
  • Take immediate personal protective measures (PPE, move to safe location, etc.).
  • Report the emergency to Security.
  • Implement local response actions (process shutdowns, activate fire protection systems, etc.) if safe to do so, and consistent with level of training and area specific procedures.

A response effort by trained emergency personnel from outside the immediate area, or by other designated responders (i.e., mutual aid groups, local fire departments, etc.), would then go into effect. An event that requires outside emergency assistance can be, but is not limited to, an uncontrolled release of a hazardous material, fire, explosion, and serious injury or illness to personnel where there is a potential risk of exposure to blood borne pathogens.

Below are examples of classification levels and potential responses.

LEVEL ONE Classification: Minor Incident

  • Minor threat to life, property, or environment DOES NOT extend outside of immediate area.
  • No spill/release or fire in progress, no potential for explosion or loss of control.
  • Area Supervisor and Unit personnel can effectively manage situation.


  • On-Scene Incident Commander and Emergency Response Team assistance limited to routine medical response, advice, assessment, and post-incident support/cleanup activities.
  • External assistance limited to routine medical transport and/or law enforcement assistance.
  • Notifications as required.

LEVEL TWO Classification: Serious Incident

  • Serious threat to life, property, or environment may extend outside of immediate area, but DOES NOT extend Off-Site.
  • Protective actions required for unit and/or nearby areas.
  • Rescue or medical response - Serious injuries reported or possible.


  • On-Scene Incident Commander and Emergency Response Team respond or on stand-by.
  • External assistance at discretion of On-Scene IC.
  • Emergency Operation Center will be activated.

 LEVEL THREE Classification: Significant Incident

  •  Significant threat to life, property, or environment extending or with POTENTIAL to extend Off-Site.
  • Protective actions required for nearby units/areas, and/or off-site communities.
  • Potential for significant impact to company reputation, operability, or revenues.


  • On-Scene Incident Commander and Emergency Response Team respond.
  • External coordination and/or assistance is required.
  • An Emergency Command Center is activated.
  • Corporate Crisis notification at discretion of Emergency Operations Center Director

In conclusion, operational responders are trained for defensive reactions, not to terminate the release. Their main function is to contain the release from a safe distance, keep it from spreading and creating exponential incidences, and prevent exposures.

For more tips and best practices on conducting an effective oil spill, download our Free Best Practices for Oil Spill Exercises

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OSHA's HAZWOPER standard training... Who needs it?

Posted on Thu, Jun 10, 2010

The Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard -Online Training applies to specific groups of employers and their employees. Employees who are exposed or potentially exposed to hazardous substances, including hazardous waste, are required to obtain HAZWOPER training. 

OHSA mandates that those who work in the following areas must complete the standard HAZWOPER training.

  • General site workers (such as equipment operators, general laborers and supervisory personnel) engaged in hazardous substance removal or other activities, which expose or potentially expose workers to hazardous substances and health.
  • Operations crews involved in hazardous wastes that are conducted at treatment, storage, and disposal facilities regulated by 40 CFR Parts 264 and 265 pursuant to RCRA; or by agencies under agreement with U.S.E.P.A. to implement RCRA regulations.
  • Emergency response operations for releases of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances regardless of the location of the hazard.Training levels

Courses should be selected based upon the type of work and the potential hazard involved in the work. 

  • Those individuals directly involved in the cleaning up of hazardous materials, its storage, or its transportation should take the 40-hour HAZWOPER course. The 40 hour course is required for the safety of workers at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.
  • Other, shorter courses such as the 24-hour HAZWOPER training may be appropriate for those who are less directly involved with uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (such as, but not limited to, ground water monitoring, land surveying, or geophysical surveying). .
  • Managers are required to attain the same level of training as those they supervise, and an additional 8 hours.

There are numerous sources for OSHA-based HAZWOPER training, from community colleges to private consultants.  However, companies must insure that the trainer teaches the required material and provides certification to the student. The certification is assigned to the employee, not the employer.  Because of this, individuals must receive the full training mandated, not just those areas that are covered at the current work site.


For more tips and best practices on HAZWOPER Training, download our HAZWOPER training guide



Tags: OSHA HAZWOPER, HAZWOPER, OSHA HAZWOPER standard training, Fire Department HAZWOPER training