5 Manual handling practices to improve flammable liquids safety 

Oct 30, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

Manual handling containers of Class 3 Flammable Liquids and other Dangerous Goods present a complex range of hazards. So, in this blog we’ll be looking at 5 important strategies for minimising manual handling and chemical exposure injuries while loading, unloading, transferring, handling and decanting flammable liquids (and other hazardous chemicals). 

REMEMBER: The most effective risk controls seek to completely eliminate a chemical or use a less harmful substance. 


1. Use lifting and handling aids

Poor lifting and carrying techniques can cause severe musculoskeletal injuries in any work situation — but when hazardous chemicals are involved, normal safe handling practices become complicated. Workers often use awkward movements and postures to avoid contacting chemical residues and fumes, or the effort increases because they need to wear bulky and restrictive PPE. 

REMEMBER: Where possible always use mechanical lifting and handling aids. 


  • Liaise with chemical suppliers and delivery companies to leave chemicals as close as possible to the chemical store. 
  • Use forklifts and pallet jacks to take chemical orders and deliveries directly to the flammable liquids cabinet. 
  • Fit chemical drums with spill lids and use drum dolly’s when moving single 205 litre drums around the worksite. 
  • Place smaller chemical containers on bunded trolleys for easy transfer. 
  • Use drum caddis for efficient transfer and decanting. 


2. Reduce protective clothing

Workers who need to wear bulky PPE and protective clothing while lifting and carrying packaged flammable liquids may actually increase manual handling risk. Examples: 

  • Increased effort when wearing a full body suit, gloves, boots and mask — workers are vulnerable to heat stress. 
  • Minimised visibility wearing a chemical mask or eye shield when carrying packaged chemicals — workers are vulnerable to tripping or dropping the container. 
  • Bulky or ill-fitting gloves reducing grip — more likely for a worker to drop a container. 
  • Poorly fitted (or maintained) PPE — increased risk of chemical exposure injuries. 


  • Make sure PPE is individually fitted to each worker. 
  • Reduce distances between storage and transfer areas (where possible). 
  • Keep PPE clean, well maintained, and stored in dedicated PPE cabinets. 
  • Use elimination and isolation controls to reduce handling times and chemical contact points. 

REMEMBER: It’s always best to find chemical hazard controls that reduce the need for PPE. When PPE is bulky and restrictive workers often take shortcuts or don’t wear it. 


3. Train workers in proper lifting and carrying

Even with mechanical lifting aids in place, there will still be work areas and job tasks that require the physical handling of packages and containers. Make sure all relevant staff and external contractors are trained in proper manual handling techniques. As a minimum, you should also have specific handling procedures in place for: 

  • Unloading containers from pallets and carrying them to the chemical store. 
  • Moving 205 litres drums. 
  • Mixing cleaning chemicals. 
  • Decanting fuel and carrying back to a work station.  


  • Teach workers how to lift with a straight back, bending the knees. 
  • Stabilise loads with stretch wrap, straps, or bands. 
  • Implement good work design so workers don’t have to lean or bend over to access chemicals. 
  • Prohibit manual handling of chemical containers above head height. 


REMEMBER: A worker who trips while carrying a container of flammable liquids creates an immediate chemical spill, fire, explosion and exposure hazard — as well as a likely musculoskeletal injury. 


4. Implement good housekeeping

Housekeeping can play an important role in reducing manual handling incidents and chemical exposure injuries. Crowded work areas and blocked throughways reduce access for forklifts and handling aids — as well as increase the risk of trips and falls. 


  • Clear space at the loading dock and chemical storage areas to allow forklift access. 
  • Keep throughways clear of pallets and debris. 
  • Put chemical orders away immediately on delivery. 
  • Use general purpose cabinets and racking systems for non-hazardous materials to reduce clutter. 
  • Allow plenty of space in chemical stores to prevent excessive loading and unsafe stacks. 
  • Use indoor flammable liquids cabinets that have heavy duty shelving and self-closing doors. 
  • Store heavier items between knee and shoulder height. 


5. Rationalise chemical purchasing

Manual handling incidents can also be minimised by reducing the range of chemicals held onsite, and avoiding overstocking. Work with chemical supply companies so you can order less chemicals, but more often. 


  • Reduce the size and weight of chemical containers. 
  • Change the shape of chemical containers to improve grip. 
  • Look for safer alternatives and multi-use products that allow you to reduce the chemical range. 
  • Liaise with chemical suppliers to limit the use of packaging that requires cutting or significant force to release the containers. 
  • Implement a closed chemical decanting facility. 

REMEMBER: Ordering chemicals in containers that are easy to open reduces the likelihood of workers using a screwdriver of clawhammer to open the container. 


Next steps 

Storing your flammables in a Class 3 Flammable Liquids Cabinet is an important step in safe chemical handling and storage. To learn more about how to minimise the risks associated with flammable liquids in the workplace, why not download our informative eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors? It’s completely free. 

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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