Keeping your spill kits up to date
While spill kits aren’t quite like perishable foods, their components actually do expire. But how do you know if they have ‘gone off’, especially if you haven’t used them for a long time?
Spill kits themselves don’t have an expiry date, it’s the absorbents in them that do. That’s because they have a shelf life of around five years — a generous number, but a good yardstick. Several factors can affect the actual shelf life, and they’re mainly around storage.
If you’ve had a spill kit for four, five or six years, or even a decade, and been lucky enough never to have needed to use it, you may think it’s fine — particularly if you’ve stored it according to the instructions.
But spill kits are like fire extinguishers, or insurance, when you need them, you need them. So are you willing to take the chance that your kit really is fine? Probably not.
Checking for ‘expired’ spill kits
So how do you check to see if a spill kit is past its use-by date (so to speak)?
Firstly, take all the absorbents out and visually appraise them. Absorbents are made of polypropylene, and when this breaks down it turns to white flakes and then powder. Any signs of these, and your absorbents have degraded beyond use and must be disposed of.
Next, go through any mats, socks and pillows by giving them a gentle little shake. If they tear, or worse fall apart, then once again, they have degraded beyond use and must be thrown away.
As mentioned earlier, absorbents have a shelf life of some five years. This is whether they’re in a spill kit or not. Typically, if you have stored your spill kit inside, and away from direct sunlight and extreme temperature fluctuations, then they can last longer than the five years. On the other hand, doing the opposite greatly reduces your spill kit’s life span.
Going back to the insurance analogy, whichever way you’ve stored your spill kit, it’s worthwhile to check it regularly. For the reasons just explained, it’s worth noting that any spill kits in vehicles should ideally be checked frequently — say at least monthly — just because it’s impossible to prevent temperature extremes or direct sunlight.
In the same vein, it’s a good idea to check absorbents used in other applications (not just spill kits) in your plant. Rotating absorbents from any spill kits exposed to temperature extremes or UV light may help prevent them from degrading.
To ensure checking your absorbents is not a haphazard event, include these inspections in your business’s general inventory checks and audits.
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