Aerosol safety in the workplace

Dec 27, 2018 Posted by Walter Ingles

Aerosol cans dispense a huge range of substances in various forms — pastes, foams, wet or dry sprays, gels and creams. Not only are the little cans airtight so the substance inside won’t evaporate, they enjoy a long shelf-life. But despite being so convenient and ready to use at the touch of a button, nearly all aerosol cans are Class 2.1 Flammable Gases and Dangerous Goods.

Many workplaces and domestic households don’t give aerosols the respect they deserve and remain seemingly unaware of the numerous accidents, injuries and dangerous events caused by storing and handling aerosols incorrectly. This blog provides important information about aerosol safety in the workplace, looking at general hazards and key recommendations for reducing accidents and incidents involving aerosols.

TIP: Download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: compliance and safety requirements to learn how to apply a risk management methodology at your worksite to control the hazards associated with compressed gases and aerosols.

Hazards of aerosol cans

Aerosol cans present three layers of hazards. Apart from the chemical properties of the actual substance being housed in the can, the canisters themselves can become projectiles as well as a waste hazard at the end of their shelf-life. Let’s take a closer look at each of the three hazard types.

Chemical Hazards

Despite being filled with spray paints, insecticides, automotive sprays, lubricants, heavy duty cleaners, adhesives, and other hazardous substances; many workers seem to forget that the contents of aerosol cans are potentially dangerous chemicals. It is essential that staff have a full understanding of the chemical properties of the substances they use at a worksite including those contained in aerosol cans.

Physiochemical Hazards

Physiochemical hazards relate to the way a substance is used, stored or handled and include the storage containers and other Dangerous Goods that might come into contact with the substance. For example: a punctured or ruptured aerosol can become a dangerous projectile, with many recorded accidents where staff were seriously injured after being hit by an airborne can.

Aerosol cans which become overheated have been known to ignite and explode with many workers suffering 2nd and 3rd degree burns plus other terrible injuries. The worker can also be covered in shrapnel from the can as well as covered in the hazardous substance contained inside (eg, burning paint).

Waste Hazards

Aerosols can also produce hazardous waste particularly when the canister is unusable because the spray nozzle is defective or broken. The chemical liquids and vapours that remain in the can could create a fire or explosion, as well as present a toxic exposure risk to site personnel. Your risk management plan should have provision for the waste management program of these Class 2.1 Flammable Gases.

Aerosols are Dangerous Goods

Whether your worksite uses or carries aerosol spray paint , deodorant or automotive lubricant, the aerosol can is considered Class 2 Dangerous Goods. It is essential that you:

1. Include aerosols in your risk assessment

When carrying out your risk assessment don’t overlook aerosol cans in the hazard identification step. Even a single can of lubricant or spray paint is a hazard and must be factored into your Safety Management Plan.

2. Read the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each aerosol

Make sure you consult the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for each aerosol can so that you fully understand the chemical properties of the substances contained inside. A copy of the SDS will need to be included in your register of Hazardous Chemicals, and if your site exceeds aggregate threshold quantities (consult the WHS Regulation in your state or territory) they must also be included in the Manifest.

3. Train your staff in aerosol safety

Staff training is key to providing a safe workplace. Raise aerosol safety awareness at toolbox talks, staff meetings and safety forums, and provide enough supervision to ensure that your staff are following safety procedures. It is not enough to tell staff not to let aerosol cans get too hot, you need to provide specific examples (don’t leave cans in the glovebox of your car, in direct sunlight, next to the gas burner or heat gun, store them correctly).

4. Store aerosols correctly

Aerosols are best stored in a dedicated aerosol cage. Aerosol cages are ideal because they are:

  • Manufactured in accordance with AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders
  • Designed for the correct height of the cans, and custom-sized to house a range of standard carton sizes
  • Constructed from heavy-duty componentry that offers safe projectile protection
  • Built with perforated walls to allow the natural movement of air and comply with ventilation standards
  • Finished with a corrosion-resistant 2-PACK polyurethane coating
  • Fixed with mandatory placards and warning signs

IMPORTANT: Aerosols can legally be stored in a Flammable Liquids store but in many cases this is over compliant because aerosol storage cabinets don’t require a spill containment sump. A dedicated aerosol store is far more practical.

Next Steps

Aerosols pose a number if hazards upon people and property in the workplace. To ensure that your workplace is safe and compliant, it is important that you identify and assess the risks associated with aerosols and control them in an effective manner. If you would like more information on how to manage the risks associated with aerosols in the workplace, download our free eBook by clicking on the image below. 

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Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Adviser. He loves helping businesses 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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