Hazardous Chemicals: engaging risk assessment professionals and safety auditors

Jan 14, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

Keeping your workplace safe and compliant is an ongoing responsibility for business owners and operators, and a chemical risk assessment is an important tool for understanding the way hazardous chemicals can impact safety on the job site. This blog highlights three areas where  independent consultants or safety auditors can assist you in the risk assessment process. Experienced field auditors and consultants bring specialist industry knowledge and often have access to inaccessible research materials and industry guidelines.

HAZCHEM Storage areas

Engaging an external contractor to audit and assess your chemical stores can give you greater insights into existing hazards as well as ensure your organisation does not incur costly fines and penalties from non-compliance.

Field auditors who specialise in chemical storage have a working knowledge of specialised areas of the WHS Regulation, Codes of Practices and Safety Standards that apply when storing certain hazard classes as well as individual chemicals (eg, toxic substances). A storage specialist can specifically advise your about:

  • Indoor vs outdoor storage - which chemicals which are recommended for outdoor storage by Australian Safety Standards (eg, flammable gases). Your consultant can assess the site layout to determine a compliant location (eg, 3 metres away from combustibles, vegetation, and refuse stations).

  • Chemical Store Construction - construction specifications for different types of chemicals stores. Eg, flammable liquids store must be constructed from double-walled sheet steel and have a space of at least 40mm between the walls.

  • Spill containment - assess the existing capacity of spill containment sumps in your chemical and dangerous goods cabinets and bulk stores. Make recommendations for spill cleanup kits and emergency procedures.

  • Impact and projectile protection - which chemical stores must be protected from impact using bump rails or reinforced linings. Eg, storage cages for compressed gases require impact protection, while aerosol can stores must have sufficient projectile protection to contain the cans if they exploded or began an uncontrolled release.

  • Ventilation - the effectiveness of ventilation in your chemical stores and make recommendations for a mechanical ventilation system or maximising natural air flow.

  • Emergency showers and eye wash stations - the requirements of the WHS Legislation and Safety Standards to have emergency and first aid equipment in place.

  • Register and Manifest of Hazardous Chemicals - how to create a Register of Hazardous chemicals and assess whether your site also needs a Manifest and Chemical Emergency Plan.

  • Dangerous Goods signage - which hazardous chemicals are also Dangerous Goods and must be labelled according to the Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG Code).

IMPORTANT: It is especially recommended to engage an independent consultant when you are using toxic chemicals, unstable or highly corrosive substances.

Chemical decanting and transfer stations

Transferring chemicals and fuel from one container into another can be one of the most hazardous activities at a job site. Apart from chemical exposure, workers can suffer muscle strains when trying to manoeuvre awkwardly shaped chemical drums and containers. Dropped containers can then cause large chemical spills which then create even greater exposure hazards as well as fire and explosion risks.

Appointing an independent consultant is an efficient way of assessing the unique operations of your worksite who can recommend an installation based on the types of chemicals you use, the way they are being used, and the volumes being decanted or transferred.

An external consultant will help you:

  • Identify the chemicals requiring decanting or transfer and recommend standardised container sizes based on the usage within your own industry.

  • Assess the existing decanting/transfer equipment and operational procedures then recommend suitable caddies, cradles and bunded products.

  • Inspect the job site and assess the locations of the decanting and transfer station, making  recommendations for improvements.

  • Assess the suitability of spill control measures in place.

  • Audit your chemical labelling (especially portable containers) and signage in place at the worksite.

External auditors will identify non-compliances in your chemical decanting stations, and assess the severity and likelihood of any dangerous events, accidents, injuries or illnesses occurring.

Air monitoring and testing

More than 700 hazardous chemicals in Australia have a Workplace Exposure Standard that sets the maximum concentration levels in the breathing zones of workers exposed to the chemicals. In many cases it will be necessary to have an external consultant (eg, occupational hygienist) to undertake risk assessments and help you design an air-monitoring strategy.

This might involve:

  • Calculating theoretical exposure levels

  • Testing air quality in breathing zones

  • Analysing collected samples and reporting recommendations

  • Assisting with ongoing health monitoring of workers

Independent consultants may also recommend changes to the design, installation and maintenance of ventilation systems or fire protection equipment.

Next Steps

For many workplaces, involving industry professionals and experienced field consultants in your risk assessments is an essential step to chemical safety compliance. For more information about how to implement a full risk management methodology to manage the chemical hazards at your own job site please download our free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace. Download and read it today 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 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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