Engineering and isolation controls to support your flammable liquids store 

Dec 22, 2020 Posted by Walter Ingles

One of our primary aims here at STOREMASTA is helping our clients and customers better understand the chemical hazards they are facing before installing flammable liquids cabinets and decanting equipment. Safety cabinets, closed lube stations, bunding and subsidiary storage equipment are all engineering and isolation controls designed to keep hazardous chemicals stable — and reduce the amount of human contact with Dangerous Goods. In today’s blog we’ll be looking at additional engineering and isolation controls that you can implement to support your existing controls and provide a great level of protection for your workers.


Understanding hazard controls 

If you’ve signed up to buy a safety cabinet or a lube station without conducting a risk assessment you’ve missed a couple of steps. We aren’t trying to talk you out of installing an effective piece of safety equipment that could save you thousands of dollars in waste reduction (as well as the life of a worker). We just want you to make sure you’ve fully identified all the chemical hazards on your job site and looked for ways to eliminate them (first). 

The WHS Regulations in Australia as well as the HAZCHEM Code of Practice refer to a Hierarchy of Controls which focus on eliminating chemical hazards (first), and if that is not possible, taking steps to minimise the chemical’s potential for harm. Here’s how it works: 

  • Elimination - changing work processes and production outputs so you can stop using a chemical completely. 
  • Substitution - switching to chemicals that are less harmful (eg, higher flashpoint/autoignition temperature, less toxic, or non-corrosive). 
  • Isolation — placing distances or physical barriers between the chemicals, people, ignition sources and incompatible substances. 
  • Engineering - using operating plant, tools, machinery and equipment to automate chemical processes or safely store chemicals. 
  • Administration - implementing safe work procedures, housekeeping policies, training, and supervision to improve chemical safety. 
  • PPE - having workers wear chemical resistant goggles, masks, gloves, and boots to minimise chemical exposure.

Single hazard controls are rarely effective without the support of additional measure and if your business depends on the flammable liquids, you should always consider safer chemical alternatives (where possible). Just using a chemical with a slightly higher flashpoint (ie, less flammable), weaker concentrations, or less toxic chemicals all make a difference to the overall safety of your job site. 


Isolation controls for flammable liquids 

An isolation control is a way of separating hazardous chemicals from people, other chemicals, Dangerous Goods, and ignition sources. Isolation controls are most effective during the design phase — ie, when designing a new warehouse, chemical store, or construction site.

A simple isolation control to support your flammable liquids stores and lube stations is to stop workers from carrying out hot work and bringing tools that produce a spark 3-5 metres of the installation. But there are many others you can use: 

  • Restricting access to chemical intake, storage, handling, decanting and waste holding areas. This can be achieved through a combination of administrative systems, and physical restraints (gates, fences, barrier walls). 
  • Placing oxidisers and other incompatible substances in their own, fully enclosed safety cabinets — or keeping them at least 3-5 metres from flammable liquids. 
  • Using enclosed lubrication and decanting systems that fully contain the chemical containers and provide reliable spill protection. 
  • Installing fire resistant screen walls to act as a vapour barrier between working quantities of flammable liquids. 


Engineering controls for flammable liquids

Engineering controls utilise machinery, tools, and equipment to minimise exposure to hazardous chemicals. Flammable liquids cabinets themselves are actually engineering controls because they fully contain the liquids and flammable vapours. 

But business owners can also use additional engineering controls to improve safety and efficiency in their chemical storage areas. Reducing distances, employing lifting and carrying aids, and using spill bunding can reduce chemical spill waste and increase productivity — as well as minimise chemical exposure injuries and lost time incidents. 

You might consider introducing the following additional engineering controls: 

  • Installing a mechanical ventilation system that includes LEV (local exhaust ventilation) to reduce chemical concentration levels and carry away flammable vapours. 
  • Using equipment, machinery, and manufacturing processes that lower the temperature of chemicals (and work areas). 
  • Installing safe electrical fittings, circuits and equipment to reduce electrical discharge and ignition hazards. 
  • Using sensors, alarms and automated controls that regulate pressure and heat to minimise the likelihood of chemical overflow and the formation of hazardous atmospheres. 
  • Installing approved lighting in chemical handling and storage areas so chemicals can be easily identified and handled without error. 
  • Having spill kits located onsite that include absorbent materials, clean-up equipment and PPE. 
  • Installing fire detection and control systems. 
  • Using spill trays, under-pallet bunding, drum dolly’s, caddies and trolleys to contains leaks and spills from chemical drums, IBCs and smaller containers. 


Next steps 

If you are about to install a flammable liquids cabinet or carry out a review of your existing chemical stores — please download our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. It contains practical advice for selecting a compliant safety cabinet as well as carrying out a preliminary risk assessment to ensure you address each and every chemical hazard onsite. Download and read it today by clicking on the image below:  

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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