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THMG072 – 10 Tips to Become a Better Mercury Technician

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In this episode, Bob and Mike offer 10 helpful tips to make you a better mercury technician.

Complete Show Notes

6:00 1. Know How Mercury Reacts When It Hits the Floor

  • This data is based upon a height of four feet, which is the average distance from our hands
  • Carpet
    • Not much is going to happen – minimal impact, and the mercury will stay in the spot where it was dropped
    • Search for mercury in the close general vicinity to the drop point
  • Tile
    • Tile or any hard tile surface gives you the biggest impact
    • When the product hits the tile, it “shatters” into hundreds of little balls and travels in all directions
    • These balls have interesting properties
      • Their surface tension turns them into little balls of liquid that resemble a BB
      • They prepare to stay together – their cohesive tendency makes these little BB-shaped droplets suck together to create a bigger drop
      • They “roll” towards a low point just like a BB or bearing – they can be very small
      • They don’t act like a solid all the time – if introduced to a crack in the floor, they can sink into it
      • This isn’t true all the time, though – if the two materials are dissimilar enough, the bead might actually bridge the crack
    • Grout in the tile may hold onto microscopic beads – important to remember because you can suck it all up and still get readings
      • If this happens, the major threat to health is over – the homeowner just needs to hire an environmental cleanup company to remove the grout
      • We’re not looking to get all of it – we’re just looking to render it safe enough for someone else to do that
  • Hardwood floors
    • React a lot like tile, but now we have to worry about cracks and gaps in the floor
    • Older hardwood floors were sealed with polyurethane, so many of the board-to-board cracks were sealed
    • New or pre-finished floors have a gap between each board – be aware of this so you can isolate the area until cleanup comes

13:50 2. Determine Contamination of Persons and Items

  • Separate items into a few piles based on their likelihood of contamination – shoes, socks, and anything close to the floor have a high likelihood of contamination
  • Place grouped items into a garbage bag and tie it shut
  • Wait about 10 minutes, then cut a tiny hole in the bag and meter inside – if you get a reading, ChemTape the hole and throw the items away
  • You can do the same thing with human extremities like hands and feet

17:05 3. Make Sure Your Vacuum Has a Filter

  • Double and triple check to make sure your vacuum has a filter in it – you can use an EMS suction pump or a shop vac
  • Regardless of what you use, you’re going to hyper blast heavy metal vapor into the entire house if you don’t have the filters in place – so pay attention!

18:45 4. Know What You’re Looking For

  • Look for a really shiny ball
  • You can’t use a flashlight to find them because they have a very distinct shine
  • Most importantly, compare it to the amalgam you have – this can be difficult when we have SCBA on and it gets foggy
  • Keep in mind that placing amalgam on the mercury won’t stop the vapors – amalgam needs to be picked up because it will continue to off gas
  • Amalgam works like a sponge, but the liquid is still trapped

22:15 5. Protect Yourself

  • Wear shoe covers or boot covers

24:10 6. Know the Acceptable Limits in Your Area

  • This includes vapor limits and trash collection

25:25 7. Know the Trash Capacities in Your Area

  • You have to be able to tell homeowners where they can get rid of contaminated items (and make sure they actually do

26:40 8. Know Your Pickup Methods and When to Use Them

  • This can be tricky because the properties of mercury are different than the properties of water
  • Pickup methods include:
    • Pipette – disposable plastic pipe
    • Vacuum – multiple vacuums available for different situations
    • ChemTape – back roll it over your hand and use it to attract and stick to the mercury
    • Amalgam – use this sparingly, because it can confuse homeowners if you leave some behind
    • Sponges – there are special sponges with a particular affinity for mercury

29:40 9. Know Where to Meter to Get Final Amounts

  • If you jam your meter into a crack, you’ll get an elevated reading – we’re just looking for vapors that can be inhaled
  • Consider the inhabitants – are their adults, children, or pets in the house?

32:50 10. Know When You’ve Done All You Can Do

  • Know your limits – you’re not there to make the place squeaky clean
  • Some situations require you to know when to say “enough’s enough”
  • We can walk away feeling good about ourselves by:
    • Educating the occupants
    • Talking to parents if there are children involved
    • Isolating the room if possible
    • Calling in the next step

Have a question? Send an email to feedback@thehazmatguys.com or leave a message on our Haz Mat Guys comment hotline: 843-628-1484

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