This blog will help you understand your responsibilities under WHS Regulations, Dangerous Goods legislation and Australian Safety Standards to ensure the Class 3 Flammable Liquids you carry at your worksite do not become unstable, or react dangerously with other materials and substances. We’ll introduce you to 3 critical considerations when segregating these chemicals.
1. Assessing compatibility hazards
To comply with the legislative requirements in your state or territory you’ll first need to gain a full understanding of the chemical properties and (stability, reactivity and compatibility) hazards of the flammable liquids you’re dealing with. The most obvious are the fire and explosion risks.
Example: Acetone can form explosive peroxides under certain conditions and is not compatible with strong oxidising agents, strong alkalis, bromine and mineral acids. It should not be exposed to heat.
Check the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) issued by the chemical manufacturer, and look closely at Section 7: Handling and Storage and Section 10: Stability and Reactivity. These sections will list the materials and substances that present a reaction and stability hazard to acetone, and the storage and handling conditions to avoid.
List the different ways the chemical could become unstable or cause a dangerous reaction, then list the conditions and substances that are actually present at your job site. Imagine now you were assessing the compatibility hazard of the industrial solvent acetone. You might need to take the following steps:
- Identify if any of the incompatible chemicals or substances are onsite? Eg, strong oxidisers, strong alkalis, bromine and mineral acids.
- If they are onsite, in what quantities? And you’ll probably need to find out more about what is a ’strong oxidiser’ and a ’strong alkali’. This might involve talking to the manufacture or supplier of both the acetone, and the other chemicals.
- Once you know where the substances are used and handled, now determine how they might contact the acetone? This could be during work processes, shared storage space, even vapour trails mixing due to poor ventilation.
- Because the acetone is also dangerous when exposed to heat you should also determine the minimum temperatures required for the chemical to explode. Then look at how the temperature of the chemical is regulated during work processes and storage.
Every job site is different — and the layout, climate, production output, storage capacity and level of vehicular traffic can all contribute to the stability of your chemical stores. It often takes more than just checking the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to keep some flammable liquids stable and safe, so apart from chemical manufacturers you may also need to liaise with industry advisory groups, government regulators and Dangerous Goods consultants.
2. Determining segregation distances and screen
Once you know which chemicals and substances to avoid, next you’ll need to determine how you can keep the acetone (we’ll continue with our earlier example) isolated. We always recommend following the guidelines of Australian Standard AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids as your starting point.
But don’t stop there. We strongly recommend you also read the relevant Standard for the incompatible substances as well as the ADG Code. In the case of the acetone this might include:
- AS2714:2008 — The storage and handling of organic peroxides
- AS3833:2007 — The storage and handling of mixed classes of dangerous goods, in packages and intermediate bulk containers
- AS4326:2008 — The storage and handling of oxidizing agents
- AS3780:2008 — The storage and handling of corrosive substances
- AS4332:2004 — The storage and handling of gases in cylinders
Each of these standards will provide separation distances, segregation hazards and clear specifications for manufacturing chemical stores, impervious barrier screens and safety cabinets. Use the Standards to help you determine the most effective location for storing each chemical hazard class.
REMEMBER: Eliminating a hazard (ie, stop using a chemical if possible) is always the best way of dealing with incompatibility hazard.
3. Using cabinets and chemical stores
The next critical consideration is your usage and handling areas. Some quick considerations include:
- Will you use an indoor flammable liquids cabinet? Or use outdoor stores?
- How will you contain leaks and spills?
- If using bunds to catch spills, are separated into chemical groups?
- What about ventilation? Is there anyway that vapours from incompatible chemicals could mix?
- Do your workers understand segregation requirements and segregation distances?
- Have workers been trained to stock, monitor and clear the spill sump of a flammable liquids cabinet?
- Do you have enforced procedures in place to prevent maintenance or construction work, or even mixed chemical deliveries in chemical storage areas?
4. Site access
Traffic and site personnel need to be strictly monitored at worksites that carry flammable liquids and other Dangerous Goods. You may have purchased high-tech flammable liquids storage cabinets and outdoors stores, but what if a delivery driver leaves a load of organic peroxides nearby? Or a first aid training company brings a tank of O2 on site during the annual refresher training.
You’ll need processes in place to:
- Restrict access to all flammable liquid’s storage and handling areas.
- Ensure that anyone accessing these areas is suitably trained, and (possibly) screened for potentially hazardous items and ignition sources.
- Have a trained site employee or supervisor accompany maintenance contractors, site visitors and delivery personnel who need access to flammable liquids stores.
- Induct site visitors before entry onto the site, and make sure they have a written list of the chemical hazards present in the areas they will be accessing.
- Keep restricted areas locked or secured.
Using a Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinet or dedicated outdoor store that has been manufactured to Australian Standard AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids is one of the most effective segregation controls for compatibility hazards. To learn more about flammable liquids storage and safety, we invite you to download our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. It has everything you need to carry out a risk assessment on the flammable liquids at your workplace and implement suitable indoor storage controls. Download and read it today by clicking on the image below: