Safety precautions for the storage of hazardous chemicals in the workplace
Jun 14, 2018

Safety precautions for the storage of hazardous chemicals in the workplace

Walter Ingles Walter Ingles

If your organisation uses hazardous chemicals, it is very important that you implement certain safety measures to mitigate the risks that these chemicals may pose upon the people in your organisation.  

Hazardous chemicals are substances, mixtures or articles that pose a significant risk to human health if they are not managed in the correct manner. Chemicals that are infectious, radioactive or only harmful to the environment are not classified as hazardous chemicals under the WHS regulations.

When hazardous chemicals are used in the workplace, it is important to ensure that your workers are aware of the hazardous properties associated with the dangerous chemicals. Also to help mitigate the risks that these chemicals may have upon your workers, it is important to ensure that they have everything they need to control all the hazards presented by the dangerous chemicals. Below we will outline some safety precautions that must be followed to help mitigate the risk that hazardous chemicals have upon the people in your organisation.

Consult your workers

A person conducting a business or undertaking must consult with the workers that are likely to be directly affected by the hazardous chemicals that are used onsite.

Consulting is a critical part of managing the risks associated with hazardous chemicals used in your operations. Consulting should be done with all workers to ensure that they are aware of the activities that involve exposure to hazardous chemicals. They must also be aware of all the hazardous chemicals that are used and stored onsite.

To ensure that all workers handle hazardous chemicals in a safe manner, you must make sure that your workers are familiar with your organisations safe working procedures. It is also good practice to get your workers involved in your organisations risk management process. This can be done by empowering your employees to take ownership in managing the risks associated with the hazardous chemicals that are used in their working area.   

Keep a register of hazardous chemicals

All organisations must keep a register of all the hazardous chemicals that are used onsite. This register must include a list of all the product names of the hazardous chemicals that are used onsite, as well as the safety data sheets that accompany the hazardous chemicals. This register must be updated when new chemicals are introduced into the workplace and when the use of certain hazardous chemicals are discontinued.

This register of hazardous chemicals must be available to all workers that are involved in using, handling and storing hazardous chemicals. It is very important to have a hazardous chemical register as it allows your workers to find information on the specific requirements for the storage and handling of each hazardous chemical.

Provide access to safety data sheets

To ensure that all workers are aware of the risks associated with the hazardous chemicals used in your organisation, it is very important to provide all your workers with access to the safety data sheet associated with each hazardous chemical. Safety data sheets are documents that outline the specific fire, reactivity, environmental and health hazards associated with a particular hazardous chemical. Safety data sheets also outline the specific storage and handling requirements for the particular hazardous chemical. Before an unfamiliar hazardous substance is used, handled or stored the safety data sheet for that particular substance must be consulted to ensure that it is being stored and handled in the safest manner.

To ensure that your workers have got easy access to safety data sheets, they must be kept in a document storage box close to the area where the hazardous substance is being stored. This also allows the safety data sheets to be easily accessed in the event of an emergency.

Clearly label all hazardous chemical storage facilities and packages

To ensure that workers and visitors are aware of the potential risks associated with the hazardous chemicals that are stored onsite, it is important to clearly label all hazardous chemical storage facilities with the correct warning and dangerous goods signage.

All dangerous substances pose different risks upon people and signage is a method that can be used to clearly distinguish the specific hazards associated with the substances being stored. Some of the different hazards associated with dangerous substances include; fire, explosion, toxicity, corrosivity, oxidising and spontaneous combustion.  

Store hazardous chemicals in a compliant cabinet or store

To ensure that everyone in the workplace is protected from the risks associated with hazardous chemicals, they must be stored in a compliant hazardous chemical storage facility.

The requirements for the storage of hazardous chemicals can be found in the Australian Standards. Each hazardous substance category has a corresponding dangerous goods class.

To store hazardous substances in a compliant manner, you must follow the Australian Standard for the dangerous goods class that corresponds with the hazardous substance that you are seeking to store.

The Australian Standards outline different requirements for indoor storage and outdoor storage of dangerous goods. Indoor storage solutions include compliant safety cabinets and outdoor storage solutions normally comprise of chemical storage containers that have been manufactured in full conformance to the relevant Australian Standard.

Next Steps

If hazardous substances are not managed correctly, they will pose significant health hazards upon the workers in your organisation. To reduce the risk of workplace incidents, hazardous chemicals must be used, handled and stored in a safe and compliant manner. If you would like more information on how to manage the risks associated with hazard chemicals, download our FREE ebook by clicking on the image below.

How to manage the risk of hazardous chemicals in the workplace

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Adviser. He loves helping business reduce the risk that Dangerous Goods pose upon their employees, property and the environment through safe and compliant dangerous goods storage solutions.

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