It is a requirement of both Australian Safety Standards and the WHS Regulations to prevent chemical spills - this includes Class 3 Flammable Liquids. In this blog we’ll be looking at the types of hazards created by spilled chemicals, and why we recommend always using a compliant flammable liquids cabinet to reduce the likelihood (and impact) of chemical leaks and spills.
Every endeavour shall be made to prevent leaks or spills, and to control them if they do occur. Clean-up action shall be initiated immediately. AS1940:2017 - The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids
Chemical spill hazards
When Class 3 Flammable Liquids leak or spill, hazardous liquid and flammable vapours accumulate in work areas or are released into the natural environment. They create a number of critical hazards including:
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. Flammable vapours are heavier than the air so they are known to settle (and accumulate) in low lying pits, trenches and stairwells. At the certain concentration levels, flammable vapours become explosive.
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.
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 as it can be difficult to completely remove chemical residues from soil or porous surfaces.
5. Financial Hazards
Apart from the human and environmental cost of chemical spills, there is also the financial cost to the organisation. Wasting chemicals is expensive and an organisation must also consider lost productivity and business interruption costs as workers and supervisors have to focus on a chemical spill instead of attending to customer orders, manufacturing, and production.
Using flammable liquids cabinets
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.
When workers have a dedicated place to store chemicals they are less like likely to pile chemical containers into unsafe stacks or piles — or leave containers lying on the ground. The cabinet provides shelving and stability, preventing containers from tipping or falling over.
Example: Workers leave fuel drums stacked on top of one another. These are vulnerable to collapse. But the inside of a flammable liquid cabinet is engineered to the size of the drums.
3. Restricted access
Chemicals left out in the open are vulnerable to theft, damage and misuse. Keeping your flammables inside a cabinet reduces the number of people who have immediate access to the chemicals.
Example: An authorised worker from another department tries to hand-pour petrol from a drum kept on the pallet. They spill it all over the floor.
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. The leaking chemicals are safely held in the lower compound allowing workers to safely remove the damaged container and clear the sump without chemicals being released into the atmosphere and natural environment.
Class 3 Flammable Liquid Storage Cabinets don’t just protect the workplace from chemical spills, there are many other benefits. Why not download our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors to learn how safety cabinets can reduce the chemical risk at your workplace. Download and read it today for the next step in workplace safety management.