Flammable liquids safety: assessing chemical spill preparedness  

Oct 21, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

How would your business cope with an uncontrolled chemical spill that included flammable liquids? Would your work team know what to do? Who to contact? And what to wear? Any organisation that carries Class 3 Flammable Liquids and other Dangerous Goods needs a spill management system in order to comply with Section 357 of Australian WHS Regulations — so in this blog we’ll be taking a quick look at spill assessment process. 

1. Risk assessment

Have you carried out a risk assessment and identified all the spill hazards onsite? Do you know: 

  • If a chemical spill could cause a dangerous fire, explosion or dangerous chemical reaction? 
  • How the health of workers, contractors, site visitors and members of the public could be affected by a chemical spill? 
  • The likelihood of a chemical spill occurring? 
  • The size of the area the spill could reach? 
  • How a chemical spill could impact the natural environment? 
  • How a chemical spill could affect the local community including neighbouring properties, public facilities, and residential areas? 

If you don’t know the answer to all of these questions we suggest making a chemical spill assessment a priority for your HSE Manager or Safety Committee. 


2. Flammable liquids cabinets and stores

Begin your site assessment by looking at your dedicated chemical stores and the aggregate quantities kept in flammable liquids cabinets. You’ll want to assess the suitability of cabinets and other storage equipment. For example:

  • Are they manufactured to Australian Safety Standards? 
  • Do they offer enough spill protection? 
  • Are the cabinets and stores being used and maintained in a way that doesn’t jeopardise the effectiveness of the spill protection (eg, not overloaded)?  
  • Are there spill kits on hand?  

REMEMBER: Indoor flammable liquids cabinets and outdoor flammable liquids stores have a dedicated spill containment system to safely contain an accidental release or spill of chemicals inside the cabinet (or store).  


3. Bunding and spill trays

Next look at how flammable liquids are protected when they are not safely packed away inside the store or cabinet. Are your flammables protected by bunding and spill trays in all of these areas? 

  • Pallet racking systems (on the ground or at height). 
  • Small quantities of paint, solvents, cleaning chemicals, fuel, oil, degreasers at individual workstations. 
  • Chemicals flagged and isolated for disposal. 
  • Chemicals being decanted or transferred to another container. 
  • Flammable liquids being moved around the job site. 
  • Chemical deliveries being unloaded and left by freight companies and suppliers. 

REMEMBER: Spill containment bunds and trays (as well as closed containment systems) are available for all facets of your operations. There really is no reason not to have bunding and spill trays in place under machines, decanting systems, drums, IBCs, and work stations. 


4. Spill kits

In section 2 we highlighted the need to ensure you had spill kits in place, but you’ll also want to assess the actual contents (and suitability) of the kits themselves — particularly if you’ve bought an off-the-shelf kit. Check that each kit has equipment for: 

  • Isolation — warning signage and high-vis security tape to rope off the area while clean-up is being conducted. 
  • Containment — absorbent materials to plug the flow, prevent the spill from spreading, and soak up the liquids. You must consider the quantities of flammable liquids held onsite. 
  • Clean-up — utensils and equipment to remove the sorbent materials, clean up the site, and remove chemical residues. 
  • Disposal — buckets and bags to safely hold the soiled clean-up gear until it can be removed for disposal. 
  • PPE and safety gear — protective clothing, shields, masks, gloves, goggles etc to protect workers from chemical exposure. 
  • Procedures — written procedures that are easy to follow and kept with the kit. 

Your assessment should also consider whether you are carrying out regular kit inspections to ensure that everything is in working order, within its use-by-date, and nothing is missing.  


5. Emergency plans

Is a formal procedure for chemical spill response included in your site emergency plan? You should have a procedure that includes (as a minimum): 

  • Activation of alarms and fire protection systems. 
  • Notification of emergency services. 
  • Mustering and evacuation. 
  • Safety equipment and PPE. 
  • Clean up procedures. 
  • Notification of EPA, council and neighbouring property owners. 


6. Workers and site personnel

Chemical spill preparedness is more than issuing a set of procedures and putting spill kits next to each of your flammable liquid’s cabinets. Your assessment should also include an evaluation of the level of awareness and knowledge of spill procedures by your workers and site personnel. 

Without prompting or reading from notes could the workers who use and handle flammable liquids every day tell us: 

  • Location of the chemical spill kits. 
  • Initial response actions (eg, get the kit, or call management, or call 000, or put on PPE) 
  • What PPE they need to wear. 
  • Basic procedures for carrying out the clean-up. 

Ongoing spill preparedness includes hazard awareness, spill response training, and regular drills. 


Next steps 

Learn more about how flammable liquids cabinets can help you comply with Australian WHS Regulations and Australian Safety Standards by downloading our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. It has everything you need to know about conducting a chemical spill risk assessment on the flammable liquids (and other Dangerous Goods) stored at your worksite. Download it now 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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