Grasping the concepts behind the secondary containment requirements can be challenging. The precepts for secondary containment are mandated by both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), so it can be hard to pinpoint an exact definition.

To begin, we need to identify what is secondary containment. Then, you need to understand how your storage units can meet the secondary containment regulations.

To help you stay ahead of the compliance officers, we will help break down the chemical drum storage regulations and secondary containment guidelines.

What is Secondary Containment?

Hazardous material inherently poses a threat to people, their surroundings, and the environment as a whole. If the material is in liquid form, it can easily spill out of its containment and pollute the ground, soil, and surface water. However, liquid-tight containers are now used to store products such as petroleum, solvents, and antifreeze. If these barrels become compromised, they can still pose a health risk. The secondary containment requirements OSHA and EPA have established reduce harm by mitigating these potential leakages.

Secondary containment is a chemical containment that creates an additional barrier between hazardous liquids and the surrounding area. For instance, for hazardous material containment, you could simply place one container inside a larger one. The barrel (or similar storage unit) acts as the primary container, while the surrounding unit is the secondary containment. Additionally, you could buy a structured container, such as a double-walled storage unit, that serves as both the primary and secondary containment.

Secondary Containment Criteria and Guidelines

Secondary containment is mentioned in several industry standards set by both the EPA and OSHA. However, these organizations never concretely specify what constitutes a secondary container within the tank containment requirements. You must meet specific requirements regarding spill volume and functionality, but the regulations do not describe design and form.

However, OSHA and the EPA would find it hard to nail down specific regulations because industries handle hazardous waste in various forms. One company may only require the aid of a small container filled with absorbent as a secondary container. However, a large factory that manages tons of hazardous waste might need to have a complex tanking system installed to prevent catastrophic environmental dangers. So, the regulations stay vague. While every enterprise must institute a secondary containment system, they can incorporate whichever method best suits their needs.

The broad guidelines issued by the EPA merely state that a secondary containment system should be:

  • Free of cracks and holes
  • Durable enough to prevent leaks and spills
  • Sloped, to collect spillage from the primary containment or;
  • Elevated, to prevent contact with leaked material
  • Able to hold a minimum of 10% of the primary container’s liquid
  • Sufficiently capable of handling run-off into the collection system
  • Regularly emptied to prevent potential overflow of the secondary containment

It’s worth noting that the regulations prescribed by the EPA never use the phrase “secondary containment.” However, it’s clear to see how incorporating a secondary containment system makes sense. 

Every facility should take steps to keep these containers free from spilling and pooling. Installing drip pans allows you to clean these areas efficiently and ensure that the secondary containment unit isn’t exposed to cross-contamination. 

Internal policies help maintain safe working conditions by requiring liquid hazardous waste and petroleum product spills to be cleaned as soon as they’re detected. Keep in mind that items and absorbents used to manage hazardous leakage are then treated as a hazardous material.

Who Needs Secondary Containment?

If a facility handles any form of hazardous material, wastes, or liquids, it will need to comply with the EPA and OSHA regulations’ guidelines. While these agencies use broad terminology to define hazardous materials, it’s relatively easy to determine if you need to incorporate a secondary containment system.

If your facility stores any liquids or materials listed on the Safety Data Sheet (SDS), you’ll need to use secondary containment. Additionally, if you work with any products that potentially pose a health risk to people or harm the environment, then you’re most likely handling hazardous material.

However, it’s best to use a practical lens when looking at your facility’s needs. While you may have hazardous material in your facility, you may not need to incorporate a secondary containment system unless you’re dealing with large quantities (think 55-gallon drums or extensive tank systems.) And, flammable liquids that are measured in ounces are unlikely to destroy the local ecosystem.

Let Us Help

While the EPA and OSHA have regulations concerning secondary containment, you might want to dig deeper to understand how these rules affect you and your company. For more resources concerning safety protocols that can impact your business, contact Pro-Tect Plastics today. From Visqueen plastic to shrinkwrap guns and heat shrink tapes, we have the plastic supplies you need!