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What Does Berm Mean?

Berms are short barrier systems used to contain spills or leaks of chemicals, oils, or industrial waste. They help prevent the risk to people, property, and the environment posed by an uncontrolled spill.

Berms are also known as spill berms and spill containment berms.

Safeopedia Explains Berm

Any organization that deals with hazardous liquids must have a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan in place for containing those liquids in the event of a spill. Depending on the type and quantity of liquids contained on site, this might involve the use of berms.

Berms used for spill protection are made of heavy-duty chemical- and fuel-resistant materials, such as PVC. Some berms are permanent installations that surround chemical containers or even entire facilities. Others are portable and can be deployed on sites as needed.

Berms can be standalone barriers that limit the spread of spilled subtabces or they can include a large impermeable pad to prevent chemicals from leaking into the ground and simplify cleanup operations.

Spill Berms for Secondary Containment

Berms is a type of secondary spill containment. The drums, tanks, pipes, and other containers that house liquids are their primary containment measures. Secondary containment are the structures that are in place in case those primary measures fail.

Secondary containment methods are classified as either active or passive. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) rule allow both these methods to be used to meet certain of its requirements.

  • Active secondary containment measures are those that must be physically deployed or engaged during an incident. These include drain covers, sorbents, and retractable containment walls.
  • Passive secondary containment measures do not require deployment. Rather, they are set up before a spill occurs. These include dikes, sloped flooring, and spill containment pallets.

Berms are considered a passive containment measure.

OSHA Requirement for Spill Containment Programs

OSHA standard 1910.120 App C – Compliance Guidelines requires a spill containment program to be put in place where the release of hazardous substances may take place by spilling. The guideline specifically states:

“Where hazardous substances may be released by spilling from a container that will expose employees to the hazards of the materials, the employer will need to implement a program to contain and control the spilled material.”

OSHA and EPA standards do not dictate the type of secondary containment to be used. Employers are, therefore, free to use any measure that will reliably ensure that a spill is properly contained.

Preventing Spills

Here are some spill prevention measures:

  • Ensure that chemicals are stored properly - covered, fastened, and supported with raised edges
  • Clearly label all chemicals on site, including an indication of the hazards associated with it
  • Use spill containment measures like spill kits, spill pallets, and berms
  • Conduct regular inspections of your containment measures
  • Follow best practices when transporting chemicals
  • Provide employees with training on how to safely handle chemical containers

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