Secondary Containment

Last updated: December 28, 2018

What Does Secondary Containment Mean?

Secondary spill containment refers to measures put into place to contain industrial spills or emissions and prevent them from contaminating the surrounding area.

Secondary containment measures are often implemented via the erection of large containment barriers (e.g. bunds, dikes), small spill trays, drainage systems, and portable or flexible barriers used to separate a spill area from its surroundings. In the context of spill containment, these portable barriers are referred to as “berms.”

Safeopedia Explains Secondary Containment

Secondary containment may also involve the use of flares and scrubbers to remove toxins that are being emitted as a gas or smoke. In some cases, secondary containment measures entirely encapsulate the primary containment system, such as when an active pipeline is placed within a secondary pipeline to contain leaks.

Secondary containment systems are an important part of safety control systems and are designed to reduce worker exposure to harmful chemicals and other hazards. OSHA requires that all chemical storage areas place chemical containers within an unbreakable secondary container (e.g. a plastic container) to prevent any spills. Furthermore, areas in which flammable or combustible chemicals are transferred between containers must be separated from other parts of the workplace and equipped with drainage systems and drip trays for secondary containment purposes.

Secondary containment is a particular concern in areas with high amounts of liquid and gas transport, such as in the petroleum industry. These industries often must use large amounts of engineered containment measures in order to work effectively with other safety measures. For instance, pressure release systems must feed into drainage tanks to prevent the released substances from entering the work area. In cases where there is a risk of a large-scale spillage, employers also face obligations related to environmental protection that must be harmonized with their occupational safety obligations.


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