4 critical risk areas to assess when storing flammable liquids

Oct 21, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

We always recommend carrying out a risk assessment before commissioning or purchasing any Dangerous Goods storage equipment — especially flammable liquids cabinets. In this blog we’ll be looking at 4 critical risk areas to assess when storing flammable liquids and outline the key considerations for determining the level of risk to your business.

1. Fire risk

The first (and most obvious) risk area is the likelihood of your flammable liquids igniting or magnifying a fire that has started in another area of the worksite. Your risk assessment must consider: 

  • Flashpoint, auto-ignition temperature, and explosive range of the chemicals. 
  • Potential ignition sources on the worksite — or nearby properties. 
  • Quantities of flammable liquids kept onsite, as well as other Dangerous Goods and hazardous chemicals. 
  • Amount of combustible materials on the worksite and surrounding properties that could support and sustain a fire. 
  • Compliance and effectiveness of existing chemical stores. 
  • Hazard points where flammable liquids are being used, transferred, or decanted. 
  • Standard of administrative controls including safe work procedures, level of supervision, attitude and acceptance of workers, effectiveness of monitoring programs. 
  • Level of fire and disaster preparedness of the worksite. 

Even if your worksite only carries a few tins of paint and some mower fuel you still need to carry out a fire risk assessment. It could be that all you need is a flammable liquids cabinet to significantly minimise your fire risk. 


2. Spill risk

Next, assess the level of risk surrounding chemical leaks and spills. Section 357 of the WHS Regulations requires you have containment systems and spill management procedures if you carry hazardous chemicals. Your risk assessment will consider: 

  • All the places onsite where a chemical spill could occur. 
  • The size of the area a spill could potentially reach. 
  • Potential damage to the worksite. 
  • How many people on the worksite could be exposed? 
  • Could the spill affect neighbouring properties or the local community? 
  • How the spill could impact the natural environment. 

Chemical quantities will be of primary importance to your risk assessment as you will be determining the required capacity of spill protection equipment and bunding. 

REMEMBER: Indoor flammable liquids cabinets have a liquid tight spill containment sump and can help you meet the legal requirement to manage chemical leaks and spills. 


3. Health risk

Flammable liquids can also be hazardous to human health if workers or visiting personnel come in contact with the chemicals. Refer closely to the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to determine the potential health hazards for each of the following exposure routes: 

  • Inhalation. Flammable liquids produce vapours and fumes that can be fatal if inhaled in strong concentrations. Lower concentrations can produce dizziness, impairment, headaches, and nausea. Long term exposure can lead to terminal illnesses like cancer. 
  • Swallowing. Chemicals can be accidentally swallowed during pipe bursts and bulk transfer incidents. Many flammable liquids are toxic and corrosive and can quickly damage the throat and the respiratory tract. Large doses can be fatal. 
  • Ingestion. Chemical particles and liquid molecules can be ingested after settling on hands, fingernails, beards and facial hair. Corrosive and irritant chemicals can cause immediate coughing and throat irritation, but long term exposure can lead to organ damage, cancer and other terminal illnesses. 
  • Skin or eye contact. If the chemicals are capable of splashing onto the skin or eyes, workers may be at risk of burns, scars, eye damage and blindness. Some chemicals that enter the bloodstream via skin or eye contact can cause fatal injuries. 

Your risk assessment will consider the quantities being held, the amount of people in contact with the chemicals, the concentration levels and the way they are used, stored and handled. 

REMEMBER: An important part of your chemical risk assessment will be to determine if there are enough skin and eye hazards to warrant a plumbed safety shower and eye wash unit. 


4. Environmental risk

Finally, consider how the chemicals could harm adjacent properties, the local community, and the natural environment. In your risk assessment consider:  

  • Are the chemicals harmful to aquatic life, flora or fauna?  
  • Are they capable of causing a major bushfire? 
  • Could an accidental spill cause the chemicals to be released into drains, waterways, groundwater, pastoral lands, forests, the ocean? 
  • Could the chemicals impact the environmental health of public parks, gardens, or sports grounds? 
  • Are there air-borne emissions which could pollute airways or breathing zones of neighbours? 

Next steps 

Safety cabinets that have been manufactured to the guidelines of AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids offer fire and spill protection as well as protection for workers and the natural environment. For more information about how to use chemical safety cabinets — as well as assess the risks associated with Class 3 Flammable Liquids — please download our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. Use it as the basis of your next chemical risk assessment.  

Essential Considerations when Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors download Free eBook

Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Storage Specialist. He helps organisations reduce risk and improve efficiencies in the storage and management of dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals.

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