Is your dangerous goods container compliant?

Aug 27, 2018 Posted by Walter Ingles

Over the last few years, there has been a trend towards the use of old shipping containers for the storage of dangerous goods and hazardous material. This trend has been fueled from the large supply of old shipping containers. In fact, there are around 17 million shipping containers in the world.

 Even though it may be very easy to source a shipping container to store dangerous goods, the level of compliance and safety associated with this method of storage is questionable. If a shipping container is no longer worthy for the storage of general freight, it would be more unworthy for the storage of hazardous material. In fact a standard shipping container doesn't have any of the mandatory features required for a compliant dangerous goods storage facility. Safe dangerous goods storage facilities must have a spill containment sump, correct ventilation, signage and a number of other features. The specific detail of these features are outlined below.  

Spill Containment

When storing dangerous goods, it is very important that the facility used has the ability to contain any spills that may occur. If the dangerous goods stored inside a container spill, it will increase the risk that the dangerous goods have upon the people, property and environment of your organisation. To prevent the risks of harm due to dangerous goods spills, it’s a requirement of the Australian Standards for dangerous goods storage facilities to have a spill containment sump. The required spill containment capacity for dangerous goods containers is different for each class of dangerous good. These different capacities are determined by the relevant Australian Standard that outlines the storage specifications for the particular dangerous goods class. For example; the standard that outlines the spill containment capacity for a flammable liquids store is AS1940 and the standard that outlines the spill containment capacity for a corrosive substance store is AS3780. If your dangerous goods shipping container doesn’t have a spill containment sump with the correct capacity for the class of dangerous goods that you are storing, it will be non compliant with the Australian Standards. This issue can be overcome by investing in a dangerous goods store that has been manufactured in full conformance to the Australian Standards.

Dangerous goods signage

Another mandatory requirement for dangerous goods storage facilities is displaying the correct dangerous goods signage. Safety signage will allow workers to identify which class of dangerous goods is being stored and the potential hazards associated with the particular class of dangerous goods being stored. Each dangerous goods class has different signage requirements. These signage requirements are outlined in the relevant Australian Standard. If your dangerous goods shipping container doesn’t have dangerous goods signage it will not be compliant with the Australian Standards and it will pose significant risks upon the people in your workplace.

Protection against harsh chemicals

Each dangerous goods class has specific chemical and physical properties. These properties are what make the dangerous goods hazardous to people, property and the environment. For a dangerous goods storage facility to truly protect people and property from the risks associated with dangerous goods, the storage facility must be manufactured to shield people and property from the dangerous properties associated with the specific class of dangerous goods being stored. Therefore no dangerous goods storage facility can be the same. A dangerous goods storage container used for the storage of flammable liquids will require different specifications to a container used for the storage of corrosive substances. The different specifications required for each class of dangerous goods are outlined in the relevant Australian Standard. Before a dangerous goods container is used for the storage of dangerous goods, the relevant Australian Standard must be checked to ensure that the chemical storage container is manufactured with all the correct features to shield against the specific hazardous properties associated with the chemicals being stored.

Ventilation

Some classes of dangerous goods such as flammable liquids, toxic substances, corrosive substances, organic peroxides and oxidising agents give off hazardous vapours that can have severe effects on human health. There are three different ways that you can become intoxicated from dangerous goods. These include; ingestion, skin contact and inhalation. Of these three different routes of exposure, inhalation is the most common form of exposure. To reduce the risk of exposure to hazardous vapours and gases, dangerous goods storage facilities must be manufactured with the ventilation specs outlined in the relevant Australian Standard for the class of dangerous goods being stored. If a dangerous goods storage container doesn’t have ventilation, it will not comply with the Australian Standards. A dangerous goods storage container without ventilation will have a high concentration of hazardous vapours, which if breathed in put a person at high risk of asphyxiation.  

Workshops within dangerous goods containers

A dangerous goods storage container should never be used as a workshop and for the storage of dangerous goods at the same time. This practice would pose risks upon the people using the workshop within the container. Dangerous goods release hazardous vaporus and continual exposure to these dangerous vapours could cause intoxication. If hot work such as grinding and welding were carried out in a dangerous goods storage container storing flammable liquids, the sparks could ignite the flammable vapours and cause a severe fire. For a chemical storage container to comply with the Australian Standard, it must not contain a workshop.

Wooden floor boards

A dangerous goods storage container must never have wooden floor boards. Wooden floor boards absorb dangerous chemicals and are easily contaminated. If another incompatible substance spilled onto the floorboards, the substance would react dangerously with the incompatible substances within the contaminated floorboards. Dangerous reactions between incompatible chemicals can cause fires and evolve dangerous gases. If a dangerous goods storage container has wooden floor boards, it will not comply with the Australian Standards and must be decommissioned instantly.  

Operational Safety Features

There are a number of other mandatory safety features that dangerous goods storage containers require.

Passage within the container

The dangerous goods container must have a passage of at least 800mm wide that extends from one end of the container to the other. This passage must be clearly marked with yellow paint not obstructed at any time. This ensures that workers entering the dangerous goods container to retrieve dangerous goods can easily find their way out of the container in the event of an emergency.

Intrinsically safe electrical equipment

A dangerous goods container used for the storage of flammable or combustible liquids must not be fitted with any electrical equipment. If the container requires any electrical equipment, it must be intrinsically safe. If non-intrinsically safe electrical equipment is used inside a flammable storage container, it would act as an ignition source and could easily cause a severe fire.

Exit door within 6 metres

No point within a dangerous goods storage container shall be more than 6m from the containers exit door. This allows people within the container to quickly escape in the event of an emergency.

Internal opening

Each door of a dangerous goods storage container must have the ability to be opened from within the container and any external locks must be deactivated. This will also ensure that no one gets trapped inside the dangerous goods storage container. If a worker did get trapped inside a dangerous goods storage container, there is a chance that they could die from asphyxiation.

Next steps

When storing dangerous goods, it’s very important that you keep them in a safe and compliant storage facility. Old shipping containers are a non-compliant method for storing dangerous goods as they don’t have the mandatory features required by the Australian Dangerous Goods Standards. To determine if your dangerous goods storage container complies with the dangerous goods standards, it’s important to carry out a dangerous goods risk assessment. For more information on how to identify, assess, control the risks associated with flammable liquids, download our FREE eBook by clicking on the link below.

How to reduce the risk of flammable liquids in the workplace

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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