How to handle dangerous goods in the workplace

Aug 28, 2018 Posted by Walter Ingles

Dangerous Goods are substances that present an immediate risk to people, property and the environment. These substances can be explosive, flammable, oxidising, toxic, radioactive or corrosive.

As dangerous goods present a number of risks to people, property and the environment, it is very important that you handle them in a safe and compliant manner to minimise the risks that they may have upon your workplace.

The requirements for the storage and handling of dangerous goods can be found in the Australian Standards. The Australian Standards are documents that outline the best practices for the storage and handling of dangerous goods in the workplace. Each dangerous goods class poses different risks upon the workplace and therefore Standards Australia have developed a different standard for each dangerous goods class. Below we will outline some important factors that must be considered when handling dangerous goods in the workplace.

Handling large packages of dangerous goods

With the increased use of dangerous goods in the last century, chemical manufacturers now package their dangerous goods in much larger packages. In this day and age, it is not uncommon to see dangerous goods such as acids and flammable liquids in packages as large as 205L drums and 1000L Intermediate Bulk Containers. Failure to handle these large packages with the right equipment can result in severe damage to people and property.

If your organisation procures their dangerous goods in 1000L intermediate bulk containers (IBC’s), a forklift must be used to lift these IBC’s in and out of chemical storage containers. 205L drums have a rounded shape and they are a lot harder to handle. When these drums are lifted in and out of chemical storage containers, forklift attachments must be used. If your organisation does not have a forklift attachment for lifting 205L drums, these drums can be safely lifted in and out of chemical storage containers on a pallet.  


Dispense dangerous goods away from other incompatible chemicals

When dangerous goods are dispensed from their containers, there is an increased risk that they will mix with other incompatible classes of dangerous goods. When incompatible classes of dangerous goods mix, it can result in violent chemical reactions that can easily harm people and property. To avoid harm to people and property, dangerous goods must be dispensed in an area that is isolated from other incompatible classes of dangerous goods. If you have separate dangerous goods storage facilities for each dangerous goods class, a safe location for dispensing dangerous goods would be inside the facility where the specific dangerous goods class is being stored. This location will be away from ignition sources and other incompatible chemicals.

When dangerous goods are being dispensed, it is important to do so in a bunded area to ensure that any spills are safely contained. It is also essential to have a spill response kit available in the area where the dangerous goods are being dispensed. This will allow any spills that may occur to be safely cleaned up.

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment is another control measure that can be used to protect people and property from the risks associated with dangerous goods. It is particularly important to use personal protective equipment when dispensing and handling toxic and corrosive substances.

Toxic substances are substances that will cause harm to human health if they enter the body. The means by which toxic substances enter your body are called the routes of exposure. There are 3 main routes of exposure. These include:

  • Ingestion
  • Skin contact
  • Inhalation

Of the three routes of exposure, inhalation is the most common form. To reduce the risk of exposure to toxic substances, it is important to use the correct personal protective equipment such as respiratory equipment and gloves while handling and dispensing toxic substance. Many substances such as flammable liquids, organic peroxides and oxidising agents are also toxic and the correct PPE must be used while handling these substances as well.

Another dangerous substance that often requires the use of personal protective equipment is corrosive substances. Corrosive substances are substances that will dissolve other materials such as stone, metal and human flesh. To reduce the risk of acid burns, corrosive resistant gloves must always be worn when handling corrosive substances.

To ensure that everyone in the workplace has access to the correct personal protective equipment, all the relevant PPE must be kept in a hi-visibility PPE cabinet that is close to the dangerous goods storage location.

Safety Data Sheets

To ensure that everyone in the workplace is aware of the specific risks associated with the dangerous substances that they are handling, it is very important to have a copy of the safety data sheets for each dangerous substance. Safety data sheets are documents that outline the specific reactivity, fire, health and environmental hazards associated with a particular substance. The safety data sheet will also outline the basic storage and handling requirements for the particular substance. Before a dangerous substance is dispensed or used, the safety data sheet for the substance must be consulted to ensure that the dangerous substance is handled in the safest manner. The safety data sheets for each substance must be kept in a secure document storage box, close to the area where the dangerous goods are being stored. This allows the safety data sheets to be easily accessed in the event of an emergency.

Next Steps

As dangerous substances pose many risks upon the people and property of your organisation, it is very important to ensure that you handle them in a safe manner. This includes using the correct handling equipment and PPE, and having safety data sheets close to the area where the dangerous goods are being stored. If you fail to handle dangerous goods in a safe and compliant manner, it could result in costly harm to the people and property of your organisation. Before dangerous goods are handled, it is very important to be aware of the specific chemical and physical properties associated with the dangerous goods that you are handling. If you would like more information on the properties associated with the dangerous goods classes, download our FREE eBook by clicking on the image below.

Dangerous Goods - What are they?

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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