Flammable liquids management: learning from experts, evidence and experience 

Oct 7, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

This is our final blog in the Good Work Design and Flammable Liquids series, and today we’ll be discussing Principle 10 — learning from experts, evidence, and experience when developing safe work systems and managing Class 3 Flammable Liquids. 

Principle 10 — Good work design also involves learning from experts, evidence, and experience. Safe Work Australia. 


1. Learning from Experts

When developing safe work systems and operating procedures for storing and handling flammable liquids, Good Work Design Principle 10 recognises the importance of collaborating with industry experts that have experience in the work design process. Experts may include: 

  • Dangerous Goods Consultants experienced in interpreting Australian WHS Regulations, Codes of Practice, and Safety Standards relating to flammable liquids. They can assist when installing compliant chemical storage and decanting systems. 
  • Occupational Hygienists who can assist with testing and monitoring chemical concentration levels in the breathing zones of workers. 
  • Ergonomists who can advise on the physical design of work areas, manual handling techniques, and safety equipment. 
  • Chemical suppliers who can advise on the impacts of chemical health hazards and PPE. 

For large projects or organisational overhauls, you may also need to collaborate with qualified trade technicians, engineers, architects, and ICT professionals during both the design and implementation stage. The suitability of these people will be determined by their: 

  • Technical expertise and field experience. 
  • Qualifications, accreditations, and professional memberships. 
  • Industry reputation. 
  • Communication and interpersonal skills.  


2. Learning from Evidence

Whether you are carrying out a risk assessment on your flammable liquid’s stores, or developing a mixing or decanting procedure, there is a huge body of written work that can be referenced. We suggest the following: 

  • Australian Standards — Australian Safety Standards exist for all the major chemical hazard classes including flammable liquids. Make sure your familiar with AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids, but we also recommend AS3833:2007 — The storage and handling of mixed classes of dangerous goods, in packages and intermediate bulk containers. 
  • WHS Regulators — the websites of Safe Work Australia and the state WHS Regulators have a library of written resources including approved Codes of Practices, official guidance materials, newsletters, and web content (eg, accident reports, safety alerts). 
  • Industry associations— industry associations often develop their own industry standards and safety guidelines. 
  • Other sources — research papers, trade magazines, Safety Data Sheets, overseas WHS regulators. 


3. Learning from Experience

Your work design process should also consider the impacts of past incidents, injuries and near-misses that have occurred at your own workplace or other job sites. Learning from experience also includes the consultative process — gathering feedback from workers and contractors. We’ll look at each separately. 

Investigating internal incidents 

An uncontrolled chemical spill, death or notifiable injury is an indication that your work systems need review. Investigating the system failures that contributed to a workplace incident allows you to make changes to your work procedures to ensure it never happens again. Here are some examples: 

  • Incorrect use of PPE due to insufficient supervision — changing handling procedures to incorporate a buddy system when using chemicals. 
  • Failure of PPE due to incorrect fitting — introducing PPE purchasing, fitting, and issue procedures. 
  • Chemical handling errors because of time pressure — hiring of additional workers and contractors to reduce extended periods of overtime. 
  • Spill in chemical store because of overloaded cabinets — investigating why chemical cabinets were overloaded, possibly purchasing additional cabinets. 
  • Flashback during decanting because a contractor began welding near the decanting station — introducing procedures for assigning a supervisor to contractors who carry out hot-work and any work process that creates sparks, flames, or electrical/static discharge. 

Considering industry incidents 

Most WHS Regulators in Australia publish updates, accident reports and statistics about workplace deaths, injuries and critical incidents. Much can be learned from the recommendations of the Regulators. Two recent examples include: 

  • Victoria — worker was burned when a vacuum cleaner used to clean-up flammable liquids in a confined space triggered an explosion. WorkSafe Victoria recommended proper training so workers know how to handle the Dangerous Goods they work with, and procedures to ensure ignition sources are not brought into confined spaces. 
  • Western Australia — worker was burned when a jerrycan of petrol ignited as the fuel was being poured into a compressor. The compressor was in the back of a ute. Placing containers on the ground when filling, keeping the nozzle in contact with the container to prevent static, and not refuelling a machine while it is running were among the recommendations by SafeWork WA. 

Gathering feedback from workers 

Finally, consider the feedback from workers involved in each job task. Invite them to safety forums, include them in the safety committee, or directly interview them during monitoring and testing programs after new work methods have been introduced. 


Next steps 

Learn from the experts and download our new eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. It contains everything you need to know about installing an indoor flammable liquids cabinet to improve workplace safety, storage efficiency, and chemical compliance — and best of all, it’s completely free. Download it now 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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