Flammable liquids safety on farms and rural worksites 

Oct 28, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

Flammable liquids are often stored in large quantities on farms and agricultural worksites, usually along with a wide range of other chemicals, substances and Dangerous Goods. In this blog we’ll be highlighting some of the key considerations for keeping flammable liquids (and other hazardous chemicals) safe on a rural job site — including chemical incompatibilities, fire risk and environment hazards. 


Fire safety 

One of the first thing to consider when storing flammable liquids on any job site is fire safety. Fire safety on rural worksites can be especially challenging because you combine large quantities of flammable chemicals, and an almost unlimited source of fuel (ie, combustible materials). Then add to that (recently) extreme drought and years of no rain. 

In order to assess and manage fire risks you need a solid understanding of how chemicals can ignite, and the likely source of fuel. As a minimum consider: 

1. Flammable chemicals

Assess the physical hazards of flammable liquids and determine how they ignite, burn, explode, or react with other substances. For flammable liquids you should know: 

  • Flashpoint (lowest temperature at which the chemical will ignite) 
  • Explosive range (temperature and concentration range where the chemical will explode) 
  • Auto-ignition temperature (temperature at which the chemical will ignite without a spark of ignition source). 

2. Ignition sources

Any chemical risk assessment should consider likely ignition sources and ensure they are kept at least 3 metres from all flammable liquids. Ignition sources on rural sites can include: 

  • Matches, lighters, cigarettes, pilot lights, burners. 
  • Motors and farm machinery. 
  • Welding, grinding, cutting and other hot work. 
  • Electric fences and their chargers. 
  • Discharge from light switches, powerpoints and electrical appliances. 
  • Lightning.
  • Batteries. 
  • Faulty appliances and power chords. 
  • Static electricity from thermostats, gadgets, and personal electronics. 
  • Heaters and furnaces. 

3. Combustibles

There is usually a huge range and quantity of combustible materials that can fuel a fire on a rural job site including: 

  • Livestock feed (eg, hay, straw) 
  • Vegetation (eg, dead foliage, discarded crops, forests) 
  • Flammable chemicals (eg, paints, fertilisers, fuel) 
  • Grain dust 

You’ll want to keep combustible items away from flammable liquids, and we always recommend using flammable liquids cabinets for even small quantities of chemicals. This reduces your fire risk because the cabinets fully contain flammable vapours and isolate them from ignition sources and incompatible substances (eg, fertilisers). 

 

 

Chemical incompatibility hazards 

Farms and agricultural sites usually carry a lot of different types of chemicals and Dangerous Goods — and many of the substances will have storage incompatibilities and reactivity hazards. For example:  

  • Flammable liquids — petrol and diesel fuels, paints and thinners, oil and grease, fuel oils. Flammable liquids are incompatible with oxidisers, corrosives, toxic chemicals, and most compressed gases.  
  • Oxidisers — fertilisers, O2. Can cause flammable liquids to auto-ignite, burn more vigorously, and create a fire that is difficult to extinguish. 
  • Corrosives — acids and bases, cleaning agents. Attack and destroy living tissue, some metals and plastics.  
  • Toxic chemicals — pesticides, herbicides. Can be especially dangerous when exposed to heat or fire. 
  • Compressed gases — LPG, O2, acetylene. Need to be kept away from sources of heat. 

Make sure you carry out a risk assessment before introducing new chemicals to the worksite and train all your workers (including family members) in chemical safety and hazard awareness. The risk assessment should carefully consider incompatibility hazards and look at storage and handling requirements to eliminate (or minimise) the likelihood of incompatible substances contacting one another. We recommend: 

  • Storing even small quantities of chemicals in an appropriate safety cabinet. Cabinets are available for all chemical hazard classes and come in a range of sizes (including under-bench units, wide and tall sizing’s).  
  • As far as possible, keep chemical quantities at a minimum. 
  • Keep your Register of Hazardous Chemicals updated (nothing older than 5 years) and inside a sturdy document box. The document boxes protect the Register from dust, water, insects and vermin, plus they can be attached to a safety cabinet. 
  • If you are unable to use chemical safety cabinets, keep incompatible hazard classes 3-5 metres apart. 
  • Keep chemicals in original containers (as much as possible) and carry out regular inspections to check the integrity of the container. 

 

Environmental impacts 

Livestock farms, fruit and tree plantations, and agricultural crop sites can cover large stretches of land, often requiring fuel, pesticides and other chemicals to be stored in satellite locations — either in permanent or temporary stores.  

A chemical spill on a farming or agricultural worksite could be catastrophic to future production capabilities, the safety of workers and livestock, as well as the integrity of the natural environment. When deciding where to store flammable liquids and other chemicals carry out an extensive risk assessment that considers: 

  • Health and environmental hazards of the chemicals (eg, toxic, corrosive, dangerous to groundwater). 
  • Proximity to dams, channels, watercourses and stormwater. 
  • Highest recorded flood level. 
  • Site boundaries and proximity to buildings, vegetation, livestock and forestry. 

REMEMBER: Where possible use indoor flammable liquids cabinets because they have a liquid tight spill compound and offer excellent spill protection. 

 

Next steps 

Farming, agricultural and other rural workplaces can quickly tidy up their work areas and immediately reduce chemical hazards by installing compliant Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinets. STOREMASTA flammable liquids cabinets come in a range of sizes (up to 850 litres) and are manufactured to Australian Safety Standards. Why not download our free eBook  Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors for a quick guide to reducing your compliance risk and increasing worksite safety? 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 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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