The Unpleasantness of Environmental Enforcement

Following recent meetings between AdBlue, the Environment Agency/Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Lubetech spill control provisions for Emission Reduction Solutions (ERS), (commonly known as Diesel Exhaust Fluids or DEF) are coming under scrutiny based on a number of factors.

A product specifically sold as an aid to environmental compliance - and used in huge numbers and volumes by plant, equipment and vehicle operators throughout the UK, Lubetech has learned that users of DEF now face additional scrutiny from an unexpected quarter as part of a what may be cynically regarded as a revenue generation exercise instigated by the Health & Safety Executive:

Issues raised concern the following:

1: Oil-only Spill Kits and products typically carried in vehicles to deal with diesel spills are wholly unsuited to DEF. A suitable supplemental spill kit must be provided – while the product poses minimal risk to operators, the urea solution is very polluting to groundwater and surface water and therefore provision must be made for containment.

2: Spills involving DEF must be handled as a chemical incident: DEF is not inherently dangerous but risk of ammonia gas and the risk of temperature-induced vapour generation is high (DEF’s typically begin to give off ammonia at just 30°c – IBC’s stored in direct sunlight can easily see fluid contents reach 40-50°c). Consequently, incidents may have complex fluid/gas elements leading to a full Hazchem escalation.

3: Lack of specific training in storage and handling: AdBlue is a urea-based product held in aqueous solution - typically in a mix of around 62% water to 32% urea with other additives. IBC’s containing AdBlue or other DEF must be: Specifically suited to containment of urea; stored away from direct sunlight and under cover. While the product is not classified as hazardous material it is highly corrosive on copper and aluminium alloys and can disrupt pipes, hoses, valves/dispensing systems including washers and sealing devices. Consideration must therefore be given to the suitability of dispensers and pipe work. PPG 7 (under EA guidelines) provides outline information, with separate specific guidance document, which must be read and complied with.

Serious incidents have already occurred and EA/SEPA wish to raise awareness as this reflects on companies that choose to use DEF’s to benefit the environment. Lubetech reminds ISO 14001 business that ISO accreditation and EMS-compliance issues raises real risk for removal of accreditation and the consequences of site inspection.

4: In a typical co-mingled Environment (where DEF & Fuels are found together), interceptor drains fitted to comply with PPG7 and hydrocarbon pollution prevention measures are seriously contaminated (and efficiencies reduced) by any combination of the fuel and the fluid.
Awareness is very low that an Interceptor is NOT suited for capture of DEF spills. Therefore active containment of spills to prevent ingress to the ID is mandatory. Any site dispensing fuels and AdBlue from pumps should urgently address the suitability of provisions. Note: Sand is wholly unacceptable as an absorbent material.

Finally, EA & SEPA have become aware of spill products being sold as `AdBlue Compliant` when they are no such thing. Confirmed by Lubetech site visits, we also see a consistent absence of separate planning and preparation for, and prevention of, DEF-related incidents.

Lubetech therefore offers the following guidelines for Safety Product Search users, which should be read in conjunction with the wider requirements for regulatory compliance.

If AdBlue is used, stored and/or dispensed, immediate review of spill control should be carried out utilising this simple 5-point framework:

1: Is the spill kit available – and suitable?
2: Is the storage device suitable? Associated valves and pipework?
3: Is the bunding suitable - and compliant?
4: Is the location of AdBlue appropriate? (away from interceptor and other drains, under cover)
5: Is your emergency plan up to date and your management and staff suitably trained?

Finally, and importantly, Lubetech wishes to remind business of Health & Safety Guidelines in light of recent changes to those guidelines issued by the Health & Safety Executive at the start 0f August 2013.

In October 2012 the H&SE assumed powers to charge a `Fee for Intervention` to investigate material breaches of health & safety regulation. This fee is currently £124 per hour.

In the first six months of operation some 5,766 invoices were issued, raising some £2,673,773 at an average invoice value of £464.  

Argued for `safety` not revenue generation, Lubetech has learned of a recent case where a 2-day site audit was concluded with a clean bill of health for the company. Using the washroom prior to departure the H&S Executive Inspector returned, noting that the soap dispenser in the washroom was empty - and therefore their entire visit was now to be regarded as an `intervention`. The business has received an invoice for nearly £2,000…

Now, new Guideline revisions issued by the H&SE on the 1st August place `spillage` protection at the very heart of the compulsory Risk Assessment (for any business with more than 5 employees), providing a revised document for completion. Given such `safety scrutiny` Lubetech asserts that AdBlue spill review and protection MUST be regarded as high priority for all users. Urgent for those dispensing and storing on site.
We also recommend it should be integrated as part of a full Risk Assessment for H&S and Environmental purposes.

The requirement for the spill control exists, now, there is no reason for business to be caught out by unscrupulous safety measures that penalise business for trying to be environmentally friendly and legally compliant.

Through Safety Product Search Lubetech, the World Leaders in Spill Control, will be happy to offer free site advice and compliance guidance to business, or through your local Lubetech distributor or AdBlue Head Office to engage in a full review of compliance for not just AdBlue, but all spill control measures.