How A Flammable Liquids Cabinet Reduces Chemical Spill Hazards?

Originally published July 31, 2019 05:01:43 AM

Iyour organisation carrying Class 3 Flammable LiquidsWHS Regulations outlines that all Australian businesses have a legal requirement to prevent the occurrence of chemical spills. And while chemical spillage and containment can be a complex issue, there are some simple risk control measures you can take to minimise the likelihood and impact of chemical spills and leaks. One of the most significant and cost-effective ways to reduce the risk of flammable liquid spillage, is to install and maintain a flammable liquids cabinet

 

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the hazards associated with flammable liquid spills and explain how a compliant flammable cabinet can reduce the hazards associated with chemical spillage

What Are The Chemical Spill Hazards For Flammables?

If there is leak or spill of Class 3 Flammable Liquids in your workplace, hazardous liquid and flammable vapours can quickly accumulate in work areas. The hazardous liquid and vapours may also be released into the natural environment causing pollution and contamination issues. 

Organisations need to be aware of the following chemical spill hazards: 

1. Fire Hazards

When flammable liquids are spilled, flammable vapours are released and create a vapour trail. Vapours can travel long distances and still remain capable of igniting. As flammable vapours are heavier than the air, so may settle and accumulate in low lying pits, trenches and stairwells.  

At certain concentration levels, flammable vapours may also become explosive. 

Flammable Liquid Fire

If flammable liquids leak or spill, vapours can ignite and cause fires or explosions.

2. Health Hazards

Fumes from spilled chemicals can be dangerous to human health, causing immediate drowsiness and dizziness. Some flammables are toxic if inhaled, others are aspiration hazards. At the same time workers splashed or soaked by flammable liquids during a spill can suffer burns to the skin and eyes.  

Some flammables (if swallowed and the chemicals reach the respiratory system) can cause fatal injuries. 

3. Environmental Hazards 

Flammable liquids that escape into the natural environment can be devastating to groundwater, aquatic and marine life, pastoral lands, livestock, wildlife — and our own drinking water. 

chemcial spillChemical spills can escape to the natural environment causing harm to groundwater, oceans, soil and animals

4. Waste and Residue Hazards

Once the actual liquid chemicals are cleaned up, consideration must be given to safe disposal of the waste. This includes the (now flammable) utensils, rags and equipment that were used to soak up the liquids.  

There may also be long-term impacts from a chemical spill, due to the chemical residues left in the soil and porous surfaces. 

5. Financial Hazards 

Apart from the human and environmental cost of chemical spills, there is also the financial cost to the organisation. Not only is wasting chemicals expensive, you must also factor in the costs of lost productivity and the interruption of business.  

If a chemical spill occurs, personnel must focus on managing and cleaning up the spill — instead of tending to tasks such as customer orders, manufacturing and production. 

STOREMASTA Blog - What do you need in a flammable liquids spill kit

Flammable liquid spills can cause a range of hazards including the financial cost of cleaning up the spill.

Why Use A Flammable Liquids Cabinet? 

Because leaking or spilled flammable liquids have the potential to create so many high-risk incidents, we recommend keeping these chemicals in a compliant Class 3 flammable liquids cabinet.  

There are many ways safety cabinets offer spill protection, here are the main ones: 

1. Impact protection

Safety cabinets reduce the likelihood of a chemical spill because they protect chemical containers from being impacted by work vehicles and forklifts, as well as flying debris and falling objects. Imagine you have 3 drums of flammable liquids sitting on a pallet in the open, they have no protection from: 

  • Forklifts or delivery vehicles. Eg, a delivery driver, unfamiliar with the layout of the site, crashes into the pallet. 
  • Tools, utensils or machinery dropped from height. Eg, a piece of machinery malfunctions and flies across the warehouse landing on the pallet of fuel drums. 
  • Collapsing pallet racks. Eg, a pallet rack is overloaded, it collapses and impacts the pallet of chemicals. 
  • Workers slipping or falling over. Eg a worker is running through the warehouse and trips over. The force of the fall projects the worker onto the pallet and they knock over the fuel drums. 

2. Housekeeping

When workers have a dedicated place to store chemicals, they are less likely to pile chemical containers into unsafe stacks or piles — or leave containers lying on the ground.  

By choosing a compliant flammable cabinet, you’re providing a safe place for chemical storage. The cabinet is specifically designed and constructed to provide optimum risk control for flammable liquids. The sturdy steel shelving and overall stability of the flammable cabinet prevents chemical containers from tipping or falling over. 

For example, workers stack fuel drums on top of one another as a means of storing the containers. However, these drums are unstable and vulnerable to collapse. If a flammable cabinet is used as the storage method instead, workers will be able to safely store the fuel drums as the cabinet is engineered to carry the drum size and weight. 

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Installing and maintaining a compliant flammable cabinet will help reduce the risks associated with chemical spills

3. Restricted Access

If flammable liquids are left out in the open, they can be stolen, damaged or misused. By keeping flammable liquids inside a compliant cabinet, you’ll be reducing the number of people who have immediate access to the chemicals.  

For example, an authorised worker from another department tries to hand-pour petrol from a drum kept on the pallet. Subsequently, the fuel is spilt all over the floor. Keeping flammables in a locked cabinet can prevent the chemicals from being misused by workers.  

4. Spill Containment

All flammable liquids cabinets manufactured to Australian Standard AS 1940:2017 have a liquid tight spill containment sump to catch leakage from damaged or broken chemical containers.  

As the leaking chemicals are safely held in the lower compound, workers are able to remove the damaged container and clear the sump. This means that housekeeping tasks can happen with ease — without chemical vapours or liquids being released into the atmosphere and natural environment. 

What Are The Legal Requirements For Containing Spills? 

Now that you have a solid understanding of the hazards associated with using and storing flammable liquids, it’s easy to see how effective a flammable cabinet is as a risk control measure. 

In regard to the legal requirements for containing and managing chemical spills, both the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations and the Australian Safety Standards detail the obligations. 

In the simplest of terms, Australian businesses are required by law to prevent, control and clean-up any chemical spills that occur in the workplace.  

As the WHS Regulation explains: 

Subdivision 2 Spills and damage  

357 Containing and managing spills  

(1) A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that where there is a risk from a spill or leak of a hazardous chemical in a solid or liquid form, provision is made in each part of the workplace where the hazardous chemical is used, handled, generated or stored for a spill containment system that contains within the workplace any part of the hazardous chemical that spills or leaks, and any resulting effluent.

The Australian Safety Standard AS 1940:2017 - The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids also explains that every endeavour should be made to prevent chemical leaks and spills as well as controlling them if they occur. The clean up of any chemical spills should be initiated as soon as the spillage occurs. 

If installed and maintained to compliance standards, flammable cabinets are a risk control measure that can significantly reduce the hazards associated with the use, handling, and storage of flammable liquids. 

Reducing Chemical Spill Hazards

As we’ve discussed in this blog, choosing a flammable liquids cabinet can reduce the hazards associated with chemical spills. Serious workplace issues such as fire, health,  environmental, waste & residue and financial hazards are minimised when staff are provided with the right safety cabinet — as well as the knowledge of how to properly install, use and maintain them.  

However, you should keep in mind that Class 3 flammable liquid storage cabinets don’t just protect the workplace from chemical spills. They provide a range of benefits for organisations who are seeking a smart chemical storage solution. If you’d like to learn more, you can download our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. In the eBook, we explain exactly how safety cabinets can reduce the specific chemical risks that may be present in your workplace. Take the next step in workplace safety management by downloading our helpful guide today.  

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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