Flammable Liquids Safety: Assessing Chemical Spill Preparedness

Originally published November 3, 2021 09:24:04 PM

How would your business cope with an uncontrolled chemical spill that included flammable liquids? Would your team know what to do, who to contact, or what PPE to use? If your business carries Class 3 Flammable Liquids, you must have a spill management system in place if you’re to comply with WHS Regulations. In this blog, we’ll help you on your way to developing a spill containment solution by taking you through the 6 steps of the chemical spill assessment process.   

Step #1 Risk Assessment

If your business is handling and storing Dangerous Goods, it’s critical that you conduct a risk assessment, so you can implement the correct risk control measures.  

And if your onsite Dangerous Goods are categorised as Class 3 Flammable Liquids, it’s vital that you identify all the spill hazards that you may have onsite. 

SpillageEven a small chemical spill of Class 3 Flammable Liquids can cause a fire, explosion and human harm.

Ask yourself, can your team confidently answer the following questions regarding a potential chemical spill: 

  • Could a chemical spill cause a dangerous fire, explosion or dangerous chemical reaction? 
  • How would the health of workers, contractors, site visitors and members of the public be affected by a spill? 
  • What is the likelihood of a chemical spill occurring? 
  • What is the size of the area the spill could reach? 
  • How could a chemical spill impact the natural environment? 
  • How may a chemical spill affect the local community — including neighbouring properties, public facilities, and residential areas?
If you don’t know the answer to any of these questions, we highly recommend contacting your HSE Manager or Safety Committee to request a chemical spill assessment. 


How to structure a chemical risk assessmentIf your staff don’t have the training, procedures, protective equipment and spill containment systems in place, you may not be able to control a flammable liquids spill.

Chemical spills, particularly when they involve flammable liquids, can cause disastrous incidents for an organisation, its employees, the environment and even the surrounding community. Being prepared for an accident such as a chemical spill, will help keep you safe and compliant.  

IMPORTANT: WHS Regulations states that Australian businesses must effectively contain and manage spills. Section 357 of the regulations explains that a spill containment system must be provided in any area of the workplace where the hazardous chemical is used, handled, generated or stored. 

Step #2 Flammable Liquids Cabinets and Stores

You should start 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.  

Install flammable cabinetAs part of your chemical spill assessment, you will have to consider the spill protection capabilities of your flammable liquid cabinets and stores.

You may like to consider the following queries regarding flammable liquid storage: 

  • Are your cabinets and stores manufactured to Australian Safety Standards? 
  • Does your chemical storage provide adequate 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 available?  

REMEMBER: Indoor flammable liquids cabinets and outdoor flammable liquids stores are designed and constructed with a spill containment system. This safely contains an accidental release or spill of chemicals inside the flammable cabinet or flammable liquids store.  

Step #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 workstations.

Step #4 Spill Kits 

In Step 2, we highlighted the need to have spill kits in place. However, you’ll also need to assess the actual contents and suitability of the kits themselves. This is particularly relevant if you’ve bought a spill kit off-the-shelf.

Spill KitAlways check the contents and suitability of your spill kits to make sure that you have adequate equipment for a flammable liquids spill.

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. 

Check to make sure that the equipment in your spill kit is: 

  • In good working order. 
  • Within its use-by-date. 
  • Completely intact with no missing items.

Step #5 Emergency plans 

Is a formal procedure for chemical spill response included in your site emergency plan?  

We strongly suggest, as a minimum, that your procedures should include the following: 

  • 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. 

STOREMASTA Blog - What do you need in a flammable liquids spill kit

Your spill assessment must also include the effectiveness of your chemical spill response and site emergency plan.

Step #6 Workers and Site Personnel

Chemical spill preparedness is more than issuing a set of procedures and placing spill kits next to your flammable cabinets.  

Your assessment should also include an evaluation of your workers and site personnel to determine their level of awareness and knowledge when it comes to chemical spill procedures.  

Training Staff and Contractors in Flammable Liquids Safety

To be prepared for a flammable liquids spill, your business must provide training including flammable liquids safety and spill response training.

Without prompting or reading from notes, could all staff who regularly use and handle flammable liquids indicate: 

  • The location of the chemical spill kits and how to use them? 
  • Initial response actions to take (eg, get the kit, or call management, or call 000, or put on PPE)? 
  • What PPE they need to wear and how to put it on/take it off? 
  • Basic procedures for carrying out the chemical spill clean-up?

Ongoing spill preparedness includes hazard awareness, spill response training and regular drills to properly prepare staff for a flammable liquids spill. 

Prevent Chemical Spills In Your Business 

Now that we’ve taken you through the 6 crucial steps when conducting a chemical spill assessment, we hope you feel more prepared to implement risk control measures to prevent such an incident from occurring in your workplace. Like to find out more about how flammable liquids cabinets can help you comply with Australian WHS Regulations and Australian Safety Standards? Then why not access 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 your flammable liquids (and other Dangerous Goods). If you want to achieve flammable liquids safety and compliance, click on the image below and read our helpful guide today.  

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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