Managing chemical leaks and spills is an essential requirement of Australian WHS legislation. In this blog we’ll be highlighting 7 different areas on the job site to include in your chemical spill risk assessment (particularly if you carry Class 3 Flammable Liquids). Your risk assessment should identify all ways a chemical spill could occur so you can introduce suitable prevention controls (eg, liquid tight safety cabinets, spill bunds, drum dollys, decanting equipment, administrative procedures).
REMEMBER: We’ve only introduced 7 areas where chemicals could spill at the job site, but there are many more. That’s why you always need to conduct your own risk assessment that considers the unique layout and operational requirements of your organisation.
1. Loading dock
From the moment flammable liquids arrive at the job site they create a spill hazard. Consider the ways chemicals could possible leak or spill when being unloaded by suppliers and received by your workers:
- Over-packaged pallets that require excessive force (or cutting implements) to be opened, resulting in broken/damaged containers.
- Containers dropped or knocked over due to unsafe manual handling procedures.
- Chemical packages placed in unsafe stacks or piles.
- Overloaded pallet stacks.
- Chemical deliveries left on the ground (without spill protection) by delivery companies.
CORRECTIVE ACTIONS: Work closely with your suppliers to overcome many of these issues, but your onsite risk assessment might consider lifting aids, pallet bunding, streamlined procedures, and training.
2. Chemical stores
Whether your chemicals are stored indoors or outside there is always a risk of a leak, spill or accidental release. Flammable liquids are especially dangerous because they can immediately ignite, explode, and create dangerous exposure hazards.
Walk around and inspect your chemical stores and identify all possible spill hazards:
- Cracked, damaged, or leaking containers placed inside the cabinet or store.
- Chemical containers that don’t have properly fitted lids or seals.
- Overloaded cabinets that negate the spill sump capacity.
- Improperly loaded cabinets (eg, more than one large drum lying horizontally).
- Unsafe stacking and shelving (eg, chemicals stored in the spill bund, or containers jamming the doors open)
- Incorrect setup (eg, cabinet not placed on a solid based that is level).
- Spill sump is already full and needs clearing.
CORRECTIVE ACTIONS: some of these issues can be fixed immediately (eg incorrect stacking, damaged containers, full spill sump) but others will need to be carried forward in your risk assessment. You may require additional cabinets (overloaded cabinet) and administrative controls (training and increased supervision) to prevent repeat incidents.
3. Warehouse racking
Chemicals stored on pallets (either racked or on the ground) are also vulnerable to leaks and spills. Consider the following hazards:
- Chemicals sitting on unbunded pallets.
- Overloaded pallets that breach bund capacity.
- Mixed classes of Dangerous Goods on the same pallet (sharing the same bund).
- Pallet racks collapsing due to overloading, inadequate maintenance, or impact by vehicles or flying objects.
CORRECTIVE ACTIONS: There are many outdoor storage options for containing chemical packages on pallets (and IBCs) that offer spill and impact protection. You may also have to restrict traffic and install more bunding in existing areas.
4. Decanting station
Many chemical spills, dangerous incidents, injuries and fatalities occur at chemical decanting stations. Consider if any of the following occur at your workplace:
- Incorrect pouring techniques that result in overflow, splashes and spillage.
- Faulty or improper fittings on decanting nozzles and pourers.
- Workers in a rush and not following procedures.
- No bunding or spill trays.
CORRECTIVE ACTIONS: There are many excellent products available to improve safety and provide better spill protection at the decanting station. Drum caddies, as well as lids and pourers that fit both 205 litre drums and IBCs are a few examples.
5. Internal transfer
Chemicals are also vulnerable to spillage when they need to be taken from one area of the job site to another. Consider if any of these incidents are possible:
- Chemical containers dropped and broken due to incorrect handling procedures.
- Spillage due to inadequate transfer equipment.
- Interference by other workers while carrying chemicals to another area.
CORRECTIVE ACTIONS: where possible use mechanical lifting aids to transfer bunded chemical containers, as well as drum dolly’s and caddies to transport chemical containers.
6. Work stations
Now look around individual work stations at the different way’s chemicals are vulnerable to leaks and spills. Are there:
- Open chemical containers left on work benches or lying on the ground.
- Leaking or damaged containers placed in a temporary container instead of being processed for disposal.
- Crowded work areas or work benches that increase the likelihood of a chemical container being knocked over or dropped.
7. Waste handling
Finally look at how chemical waste is handled at the job site and the inherent spill hazards at waste holding sites. Are there:
- Leaking or damaged containers left in work areas instead of being flagged for isolation and disposal.
- Unbunded holding areas for chemical waste.
- Inconsistent or tardy collection services by your waste disposal company.
CORRECTIVE ACTIONS: we recommend working closely with your waste handling company to ensure a regular and consistent service. At the same time introduce better housekeeping and waste processing procedures that include bunded holding compounds.
If you are storing any type of flammable or combustible liquids indoors, we recommend using our latest eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors as the basis for your risk assessment. Even though flammable liquids safety cabinets are known hazard control measures that offer excellent spill protection, we always recommend carrying out a risk assessment that considers the flashpoint, fire, and exposure hazards of the chemicals you are carrying. Download it today by clicking on the image below: