What are the guidelines for storing chemicals safely?

Jun 14, 2018 Posted by Walter Ingles

Hazardous chemicals are mixtures, substances or articles that pose a significant threat to the health and well-being of workers if they are not managed in a safe and compliant manner.  Most classes of dangerous goods that are outlined in the ADG Code are also classified as hazardous substances. Dangerous goods include substances that are explosive, flammable, dangerous when wet, oxidising, spontaneously combustible, toxic and corrosive.

As hazardous chemicals pose a significant threat upon the health and well-being of workers, it is very important that you store them in a safe and compliant manner. Harm to human health is one risk associated with hazardous chemicals, however there are a number of other negative implications associated with the use of hazardous chemicals in the workplace. These include:

  • Damage to business property
  • Environmental pollution
  • Risk of financial liability due to non-compliance
  • Decreased profitability due to down-time from incidents

As there are a number of negative implication associated with the use of hazardous chemicals in the workplace, it is very important that you store and manage them in a safe and compliant manner. The storage requirements for hazardous chemicals is outlined below.

Hazardous chemical storage requirements

The requirements for the storage of hazardous chemicals is outlined in the Australian Standards. The Australian Standards are not law, however they are recognised as an important part of a compliant solution for the storage of hazardous chemicals. To ensure that Australian organisations store hazardous chemicals and dangerous goods in a safe and compliant manner, the government of each state have developed Dangerous Goods Acts that set out broad legal principles. To complement these Acts, the government have also developed regulations and codes of practices that elaborate on the principle of the act and show you how to meet the requirements of the law.

However, these regulations and codes of practice are still relatively broad and they don’t outline the specific design requirements for chemical storage cabinets and stores. To bridge this gap Standards Australia have developed a series of standards that cover the specific requirements that must be followed to meet regulatory compliance.

The Australian Standards

The Australian Standards are technical documents that outline the specific specifications to ensure that products and systems function in a safe and compliant manner. The Australian Standards outline the minimum set of requirements that define quality and safety criteria.

Each category of hazardous chemicals pose different risks upon people and property. Because the risks associated with each dangerous goods class differ, there is a separate Australian Standard for each class of dangerous goods. Separate standards ensure that the specific risks associated with each class are effectively mitigated. The dangerous goods classes and their corresponding Australian Standard are outlined below:

Class 1 - Explosives

  • AS2187.1-1997 - Explosives Storage, transport and use

Class 2 - Gases

  • AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders

Class 3 - Flammable liquids

  • AS1940-2017 - The storage and handling of flammable liquids

Class 4 - Flammable Solids

  • ASNZS - 5026 - The storage and handling of class 4 dangerous goods

Division 5.1 - Oxidising Agents

  • AS4326-2008 - The storage and handling of oxidising agents

Division 5.2 - Organic Peroxides

  • AS2714-2008 - The storage and handling of organic peroxides  

Division 6.1 - Toxic Substances

  • AS NZS4452 - 1997 - The storage and handling of toxic substances

Class 8 - Corrosive Substances

  • AS3780-2008 - The storage and handling of corrosive substances

Class 9 - Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods   

  • The storage and handling of class 9 dangerous goods and articles

Hazardous chemical storage requirements

Each Australian Standard outlines different requirements for the storage of each class of dangerous goods. However there are similar topics that are discussed in each standard. These common topics include the requirements for chemical storage cabinet design, separation, operation and segregation. These requirements will be outlined in more detail below.

Design requirements

To ensure that hazardous chemicals adequately protect people and property, they must be stored in a safe and compliant facility. The Australian standards outline specific requirements for the design and construction of chemical storage facilities to ensure that they adequately protect people and property from the risks associated with dangerous goods. These design requirements cover specifications such as:

  • Ventilation requirements
  • Spill containment capacity
  • Dangerous goods signage
  • Material used in construction

Separation requirements

The Australian Standards also outline certain separation requirements for chemical storage facilities. To help reduce risk to people and property, chemical storage cabinets and containers must be separated from certain onsite locations such as protected places and ignition sources. Each class of dangerous goods have different separation requirements. These requirements are outlined in the relevant Australian Standard.

Operational requirements

To ensure that everyone in the workplace is protected from the risks associated with dangerous goods, the Australian Standards outline certain operation requirements for the storage and handling of dangerous goods. These handling requirements can include factors such as:

  • Only storing closed packages of dangerous goods in chemical storage facilities.
  • Ensuring that persons are prevented from entering chemical storage cabinets.
  • Ensuring that drums with a capacity greater than 60L are not stacked any more than two high.

Segregation requirements

If incompatible classes of dangerous goods mix, it can result in violent chemical reactions that could harm people and property. To reduce the risk of chemical reactions, the Australian Standards outline segregation requirements for incompatible classes of dangerous goods. These segregation requirements include factors such as storing different classes of dangerous goods in separate storage facilities and separating them by certain distances.

Next Steps

Hazardous chemicals pose many risks upon people and property in the workplace. To reduce the risk of workplace incidents, it is very important that hazardous chemicals are stored in a safe and compliant manner. The storage of hazardous chemicals can be achieved by adhering to the requirements outlined in the Australian Standards. If you would like more information on how to manage the risks associated with hazardous chemicals, download our FREE eBook by clicking on the image below.

How to manage the risk of hazardous chemicals in the workplace

Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Adviser. He loves helping business 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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