- Releases that are clearly incidental regardless of the circumstances,
- Releases that may be incidental or may require an emergency response depending on the circumstances, and
- Releases that clearly require an emergency response regardless of the circumstances.
For example, a tanker truck is receiving a load of hazardous materials at a tanker truck loading station. At the time of an accidental spill, the product can be contained by employees in the immediate vicinity and cleaned up utilizing absorbent without posing a threat to the safety and health of employees. As such, the employer may respond to such incidental releases (as permitted by §1910.120 definition: “Emergency response” or “Responding to emergencies”).
For example: A spill of the solvent toluene in a facility that manufactures toluene may not require an emergency response because of the advanced knowledge of the personnel in the immediate vicinity and equipment available to absorb and clean up the spill. However, the same spill inside a furniture refinishing shop with personnel that have had only the basic hazard communication training on toluene, may require an emergency response by more highly trained personnel. The furniture refinishing shop’s emergency response plan in this case would call for evacuation for all but the most minor spills, while evacuation and emergency response would be necessary for only much larger spills at the chemical manufacturing facility.
For example, a motor carrier is engaged in the transportation of hazardous materials. At the time of an accidental release, the product cannot be contained by employees in the immediate vicinity and cleaned up utilizing absorbent. Because of the larger problem, the motor carrier’s employees evacuates the area and call for outside help, as instructed by employer.
- The response comes from outside the immediate release area;
- The release requires evacuation of employees in the area;
- The release poses, or has the potential to pose, conditions that are immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH);
- The release poses a serious threat of fire or explosion (exceeds or has the potential to exceed the lower explosive limit or lower flammable limit);
- The release requires immediate attention because of imminent danger;
- The release may cause high levels of exposure to toxic substances;
- There is uncertainty that the employee in the work area can handle the severity of the hazard with the PPE and equipment that has been provided and the exposure limit could easily be exceeded; and
- The situation is unclear, or data are lacking on important factors.
“Emergency response” … means a response effort by employees from outside the immediate release area or by other designated responders (i.e., mutual-aid groups, local fire departments, etc.) to an occurrence which results, or is likely to result, in an uncontrolled release of a hazardous substance. Responses to incidental releases of hazardous substances where the substance can be absorbed, neutralized, or otherwise controlled at the time of release by employees in the immediate release area, or by maintenance personnel are not considered to be emergency responses within the scope of this standard. Responses to releases of hazardous substances where there is no potential safety or health hazard (i.e., fire, explosion, or chemical exposure) are not considered to be emergency responses.
For example: A release of chlorine gas above the IDLH, obscuring visibility and moving through a facility, is an emergency situation even if the initial responders are from the immediate release area. Employees who would respond to this hypothetical situation, whether they work in the immediate area or come from outside, would need to act in accordance with §1910.120(q).
For example: Paint thinner is spilled in an art studio and the janitor is called from outside the immediate release area to mop it up. The janitor does not have to respond in accordance with §1910.120, although the janitor would be expected to understand the hazards associated with paint thinner through hazard communication training.