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Dangerous Solids

     Dangerous solids are often neglected in lieu of more exotic liquid and gas chemical hazards. This is unfortunate, as solids do not care how they appear; they are just as dangerous to the responder. If fact, if solid chemical hazards could, they would probably enjoy their clandestine understated severity. Hazardous materials responders are more often injured and exposed to chemical hazards at smaller more benign appearing spill sites. At the large multi-agency operations, more care is mandatory regarding work force safety on site. The smaller sites with only few responders tend to cut corners specifically because they know no one is observing their spill. Regardless of the response site, all spill operations still follow the same procedures as outlined in “Practical Haz-Mat”. They often are less time dependent due to fewer responders, but they are still mandatory for a positive outcome of zero responder injuries or exposures. With solids, a few key concepts will provide increased responder safety “especially” with the small spills.

     “Sublimation” is the act of a solid material vaporizing without the common transition through a liquid state of matter. Here, the solid contaminant has the ability to vaporize hazardous unseen gases without first existing as a liquid "State of Matter”. A common example is that of naphtha, or “moth balls”. Think of the strong odor released when winterized clothing returns from storage every spring. In many cases, if multiple clothing bags were unsealed inside your home, you would find yourself opening exterior doors quite quickly to rid the house of the “stink”. Imagine a facility or truck trailer loaded with these unseen vapors. At the very least, the risk of asphyxiation becomes a strong and dangerous possibility. Where solids are concerned, do not forget your basic techniques.

     CPC {Chemical Protective Clothing} is necessary for any responder. Just because a product does not have the ability to “splash” onto you, does not mean contamination is unlikely. “Powdered” and “solid beaded” materials easily imbibe themselves in all types of level “D” clothing commonly worn to response sites. Many operations opt for the more protective level “B” CPC with level “C” APR’s {Air Purifying Respirators} simply to avoid the paper type level “C” contamination issue after the incident is finished. To avoid any potential chemical hazard, it is perfectly fine to up-grade any element of a CPC ensemble to fit response needs. The elimination of hoodless level “C” suits should become mandatory for your response team. Airborne solids become atomized in normal air and have the ability to enter your suit at the neckline. All levels of CPC should have encapsulated suit booties regardless of their level of protection. While sweeping, or scooping–up solids, the first place they can make contact with the responder is in the foot area, regardless of the style of protective boot you wear. Exposed feet and ankles provide access for contamination of the responders’ body. Glove taping should be evaluated. If you are working above the waist, tape the glove over the suit as this practice allows contaminant to flow over the glove rather than up your sleeve. If operating below the waist, wear the glove under the wristlet elastic {and tape} allowing the solid to fall to the ground, rather than in your glove.

     When using APR’s {Air Purifying Respirators} always use full-face models. This will ensure proper protection of the entire face. Sweaty facial skin and eyes can absorb solids quickly. Always check that the proper canister is chosen to filter out the solid contaminant you are mitigating. Always begin a response with fresh canisters. Hepa papers inside these canisters can absorb contaminant from previous spill responses and shorten their useable life span.

     Enclosed below are photographs of a relatively benign solid spill. This particular product exhibited minor toxicity and flammability when shipped and used appropriately. Upon analysis of its MSDS {Material Safety Data Sheet}, it was found to be highly explosive when spilled and mixed with ambient air in an enclosed area {such as a loading dock}. The appropriate clean-up method was to utilize level “B” or “C” {with the appropriate APR canisters} and non-sparking tools. This was discovered from employees that had previously made initial “sweep-ups” with organic straw brooms causing fire on the dock and many burnt broom ends as proof. Since this had happened more than once, the burning gases breathed by employees’ placed their overall health in question. Had this scenario occurred on a dock along with highly flammable compressed gases, {which the company also uses} it could have turned into a major facility event. Remember the 1300 rule {see Vapor Pressure post}, and evaluate solids both inside and out of their containers. Click here for photos.

                                                                                   Haz Mat Mike



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