Here at STOREMASTA we supply safety cabinets and chemical stores to various industry sectors all over Australia.
Today we are sharing our best tips for keeping your HAZCHEM and Dangerous Goods stores safe and compliant. Some of these tips might seem overly simplistic or even just common sense, but you would be surprised how often we find recommissioned safety cabinets that are not only non-compliant, but now a significant physical hazard. Remember, chemical safety cabinets, outdoor stores and gas bottle cages are only safe and compliant when installed and used correctly.
1. Keep chemical stores for chemicals
Sounds simple right? Only storing chemicals in the chemical safety cabinet. But you would be amazed at how many worksites start putting PPE, cleaning utensils, tools, and chemical applicators inside the safety cabinets next to the chemicals. This is particularly dangerous as many of these items are combustible. We regularly see:
Tools and applicators stored with the chemicals eg, putting paint brushes, rags, mixing sticks, and rollers in the flammable liquids store along with the paint. Combustibles must never be placed inside a flammable liquids cabinet or chemical store.
PPE and safety equipment stored with chemicals eg, keeping chemical resistant gloves and masks in the cabinet with chemicals. PPE and safety clothing should be kept in a dedicated store to prevent contamination and damage.
2. Don’t mix hazard classes
Once you’ve invested in a dedicated chemical store, don’t allow your staff to compromise their safety (and your compliance) by storing mixed classes of chemicals together. One of the most common problems we see is acids and bases stored in the same safety cabinet; and sometimes we see flammable liquid storage cabinets with an acid and alkaline warning sign stuck on the outside. Flammable liquids and corrosives must be correctly segregated and never stored together.
3. Have consistent work procedures for receiving chemicals
Your job site will not be safe or compliant if a stack of IBC’s containing Dangerous Goods is left sitting on the ground outside the warehouse. You’ll need consistent work procedures to ensure that every time an order of hazardous chemicals or Dangerous Goods is delivered, someone (who is suitably trained) is available to receive and put away the chemicals.
The order needs to be inspected for leaks and container damage, then put away in the chemical stores. A delivery left in the yard could be impacted by vehicles or compromised by unauthorised workers and site visitors. At the same time the chemicals may be exposed to heat and direct sunlight. We often see chemical deliveries sitting in the yard without spill protection.
Your work procedures should include purchasing controls to ensure there is always enough space in chemical stores to accommodate a delivery. Many times the reason chemical deliveries are left outside for several days is because existing chemical stores are at capacity, or there is no-one on shift with a forklift licence.
4. Have correct warning signs and documentation
Chemical stores must be labeled according to Australian WHS Regulations, Safety Standards and the ADG Code (where applicable). This includes the warning placards placed on the safety cabinets themselves, as well as other signs that must be placed in and around the job site. You will not achieve chemical compliance if signs are damaged, installed at the wrong height, or have anything obstructing their visibility.
Many job sites we encounter have the correct storage equipment in place, but fail to have copies of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and the Register of Hazardous Chemicals available nearby. It’s very easy to resolve this problem by buying a sturdy document box, purpose-built for safety documents and attaching it within easy reach of the chemical stores.
5. Safely dispose of old chemicals
Many workplaces we see have immaculate chemical stores, but then on a corner of the job site (or at the back of an old shed) we find a pile of discarded oil drums plus a bunch of unwanted chemicals. Very often this waste pile sits on old pallets (which are combustible) and contain a stack of containers that still have traces of chemical liquids and fumes.
Unnecessary chemicals and empty containers should be disposed of safely, this includes the stuff you no longer use or has become out-of-date. In Australia there nationwide programs for the disposal of agricultural and veterinary (agvet) chemicals, and you can contact your local Council or EPA office for information about specific wastes including corrosives, solvents, and toxic substances.
The best way to determine if your worksite has any non-compliance issues is to conduct a risk assessment — including a site inspection and chemical safety audit. To get started we recommend downloading our free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace which clearly explains the risk assessment process. Download and read it today to get your job site one step closer to 100% chemical safety compliance.