Chemical risk management is always a journey and never a destination. Your risk control measures can be impacted by so many variable factors, and scheduling regular inspections and safety audits is a workplace safety essential. This blog looks at five events that can impact the safety of your workplace and reduce the effectiveness of your chemical controls.
1. Quantities of hazardous chemicals increase
If you increase the quantities of hazardous chemicals you use or store at the job site your risk control measures may no longer be adequate. Consider if new hazards have been introduced in the following areas:
- Storage capacity, segregation, and separation. You may no longer have enough space to keep the chemicals corrected segregated and isolated from ignition sources, heat, vegetation, and refuse. Some chemical classes (eg, toxic chemicals) have maximum allowable quantities within the same chemical cabinet and storage zone. You may need to install additional signs and warning placards.
- Manifest quantities. If chemical quantities increase past ‘manifest’ quantities you will have additional compliance issues under Australian Safety Standards. Always check the Standard that relates to the hazard class of the chemicals you carry.
- Airborne concentrations. Increased quantities of chemicals may also increase the risk of air-borne exposure, and the breathing zones of workers may no longer be within acceptable workplace exposure standards.
2. Near-miss or close call incidents occur
A near-miss or close call that involves hazardous chemicals could mean that a chemical hazard exists and has never been fully identified and understood. In particular look into near-miss or close calls in the following areas:
- Chemical spills: spill containment bunds are overloaded, insufficient spill cleanup kits, faulty cut-off and isolation mechanisms, worn or damaged chemical stores, chemical decanting procedures are not being followed.
- Dropped or damaged gas cylinders: gas bottle cages are at capacity, workers aren’t using trolleys or forklifts to transfer cylinders, gas cylinders are not being individually restrained in cylinder stores, workers are carrying cylinders by the valve.
- Workers receiving minor chemical burns: workers not following chemical handling procedures, emergency showers and eyewash stations not within 10 seconds of the chemical hazard, workers are not being properly supervised, PPE is ineffective.
3. Workers aren’t following safe work procedures
If workers who handle hazardous chemicals are observed to be not following safe work procedures you may already be in breach of Australian Safety Standards. Your review should consider if:
- Workers ever received HAZCHEM training. Eg, sometimes a new worker is asked to undertake a new job task without any training and supervision.
- Training was insufficient and workers fully understood the procedures. Eg, sometimes workers verbally say they know what to do (when they actually don’t) because they feel embarrassed. Training should include observing workers actually performing tasks correctly.
- Supervision is adequate and effective. Eg, workers often take shortcuts when site rules and procedures are not enforced.
- Disciplinary issues exist. Eg, workers experiencing conflict issues with other workers or supervisors sometimes defy direct instructions.
- Procedures are suited to the actual job task. Eg, workers not using the required chemical gloves because they are bulky and interfere with mobility when carrying out the job task.
4. Layout of the job site changes
Changes to the layout of the job site can occur for many different reasons. You may need to review the effectiveness of your hazard control measures if any of the following situations have occurred:
- Storm or flood causes structural damage. Eg, chemical stores are moved to a higher location, falling trees and branches create fire and obstruction hazards, cuts to water and power affects the usability of decontamination stations and lighting in chemical stores.
- Construction work on the site. Eg, additional workers and contractors onsite, additional welding and hot work, contractor vehicles and machinery producing sparks.
- Renovations and extensions are completed. Eg, chemical stores in a different location and distance between incompatible hazard classes is reduced.
5. Sudden turnover of staff and contractors
Workers who use hazardous chemicals require the appropriate skills and knowledge to handle the chemicals safely and respond to an emergency situation. A sudden turnover of staff and contractors could mean there are people handling chemicals who don’t fully understand the hazards. You should review your administrative controls to ensure that all workers have received:
- Chemical hazard awareness: knowledge of hazard class and how their personal health and safety could be compromised.
- Site rules and housekeeping: all workers must know the no smoking zones, restricted areas, banned substances and items, as well as the procedures for overall hygiene and housekeeping (eg, putting chemicals away properly, keeping lids on chemical containers).
- Job specific training: one-on-one instructions for specific job tasks involving chemicals.
- Personal Protective Equipment instruction: how to fit, wear, use, clean, maintain, and store PPE.
- Emergency responses: first aid, how to use an emergency shower or eyewash, evacuation procedures.
Do you need to review the chemical risk controls you have in place at your workplace? We recommend downloading our free eBook How to manage the risk of hazardous chemicals in the workplace to gain a full understanding of the risk assessment and review process. Download and read it today by clicking on the image blow.