Here at STOREMASTA we inspect and audit the worksites of clients all over Australasia and across a broad range of industries.
During these audits and inspections we tend to see the same compliance issues arising again and again — whether that workplace operates within the agriculture, mining, defence, manufacturing, research, construction, pharmaceutical or chemical sectors. In this blog we are sharing the most common compliance problems we encounter in working HAZCHEM stores.
1. Older-style safety cabinets that are not compliant
During our site inspections, we often see many older-style chemical safety cabinets still being used to store flammables, corrosives, and toxic chemicals. While they may have been been ok to use 15-20 years ago, they no longer meet Australian Safety Standards.
One of the problems with these older cabinets is they do not have self-closing doors. When Dangerous Goods like flammable liquids are stored inside safety cabinets, the cabinet must have self-closing, close-fitting doors that are held shut automatically by catches at two or more points. Corrosive and toxic cabinets must also have self-closing doors. Always check the Australian standard that is relevant to the hazardous chemical being stored within the cabinet.
2. Makeshift cupboards and shelving used as chemical stores
Safety cabinets that conform to Australian Standards use only materials that are compatible with the hazard class of the chemicals inside. Problems we regularly see are filing cabinets, warehouse shelving, and shipping containers recommissioned as chemical stores.
One of the biggest problems here is that the building materials and components may be combustible or otherwise incompatible with the chemicals being stored. At the same time a shipping container or filing cabinet will not have proper ventilation.
Sometimes these problems start when your Dangerous Goods quantities begin to increase beyond the capacity of your existing chemical stores. Staff create makeshift storage areas because they don’t know where else to put the chemicals. Before you realise it, 6 months have passed and a makeshift shelf has now become a dedicated store for cleaning chemicals
“The walls, floor, doors and roof of a cabinet shall either be constructed of corrosion- resistant materials or be protected by a corrosion-resistant lining or coating.” AS3780-2008 - The storage and handling of corrosive substances
4. Mixed classes of dangerous goods stored together
Many hazardous chemicals and dangerous goods have incompatibility hazards, and can react violently if they come into contact with another substance whose chemical properties clash with their own. Reactions like fires, explosions, and the release of toxic gases are all dangerous reactions that can occur when incompatible substances are not segregated correctly. Despite being a clear requirement in Australia Safety Standards, we continue to see mixed classes of dangerous goods stored together.
It’s easy to put something away in the wrong chemical cabinet, and we do recognise that staff make mistakes from time to time. But very often these issues are due to:
Untrained staff who don’t fully understand the hazards of the substances carried at the worksite.
Not having dedicated chemical stores for each hazard class.
Missing or incorrect warning signs and placards
A risk assessment in your chemical and Dangerous Goods stores can quickly identify high-risk areas and recommend corrective actions or control measures to get the areas compliant.
IMPORTANT: We frequently see corrosive cabinets in the lab carrying both acids and bases on the same shelf. This could be easily resolved by using a chemical cabinet with separate (and fully enclosed) sections, enabling you to safely store acids on one side and bases on the other.
5. Crowded and overloaded chemical stores
The problem of overloaded chemical stores can happen on a number of levels. Here are some things we’ve seen recently:
Chemicals left outside the stores - eg, unrestrained cylinders sitting outside a gas bottle cage.
Cabinet exteriors being loaded with items - eg, paint tins, tools, and papers placed on top of chemical cabinets.
PPE, tools, and other combustible items stored next to chemicals - eg, paint brushes, rags, and rollers stored inside the flammable liquids cabinet next to the paints.
Overloaded pallets - eg, containers of liquid corrosives stacked on pallets which exceed the capacity of the pallet spill bunds (and are also at risk of collapsing).
Chemical quantities exceed allowable limits - eg, more than 1,000 litres of corrosive chemicals store in a single cabinet.
Buying a compliant safety cabinet is a waste of money if you don’t have good housekeeping procedures and your workers don’t put things away properly.
REMEMBER: Many chemicals (eg, corrosive and toxic chemicals) have limits on the allowable quantities in single cabinets and storage areas.
Even when they aren’t being used, hazardous chemicals are still a risk to the health and safety of your workers. We recommend carrying out a risk assessment on your chemical stores to ensure they meet the requirements of relevant Australian Safety Standards. To help you to do this, download our free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace which clearly explains what to do. Read it today and take the first step toward 100% chemical safety compliance.