If your workplace keeps or handles any type of flammable or combustible liquids you must provide suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for workers, contractors, and other site personnel. This is a requirement of Australian Standard AS1940:2017 – The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids. In today’s blog we’ll discussing the three most important considerations for ensuring your workplace is fully compliant with the Standard as well as Australian WHS Regulations.
REMEMBER: Complying with Australian Standard AS1940:2017 is not compulsory in most Australian states and territories, but if you DO keep flammable liquids at your premises and you DON’T follow the Standard, you’ll need to have in place a full risk management plan with a convincing argument as to how you are managing these chemical hazards.
1. Who needs PPE?
Where flammable or combustible liquids are kept or handled — all persons on the premises shall be provided with appropriate personal protective equipment. Australian Standard AS1940:2017.
When the Standard says that all persons on premises must be provided with PPE, it doesn’t necessarily mean that office workers need to sit at their computer station wearing a respirator — or workers who decant chemicals have to wear protective eyewear all day. But they might.
The only way to determine who needs PPE is to carry out a risk assessment. This risk assessment looks at individual people (as well as their job roles) to determine how they might be exposed to flammable liquids. Example:
Workers directly exposed to chemicals
- Chemical decanting and fuel transfer crews
- Maintenance and painting teams
- Cleaning staff and contractors
- Production teams
Workers, contractors and site visitors entering chemical handling areas
- Management and administration staff visiting maintenance and production areas.
- Independent or industry consultants carrying out safety audits.
- Government officials inspecting the site.
- Customers placing or receiving orders.
- Delivery drivers carrying or unloading deliveries.
Your risk assessment will consider the frequency of contact with the chemicals (eg, a one-off visit by a customer vs 2 hours per day mixing chemicals), how long they will be in the area (eg, walk-through vs 1 hour), and what they will be doing (opening a cabinet for an inspection vs taking photographs).
REMEMBER: Restricting access to chemical storage and handling areas to customers, supplier reps and delivery drivers is a more effective control measure than issuing PPE.
2. What PPE do they need?
Australian Standard AS1940:2017 The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids recommends the following PPE for workers exposed to flammable liquids:
- Protective clothing.
- Eye protection.
- Respirators with appropriate filters.
- Self-contained breathing apparatus.
The Standard doesn’t mean that every person identified in your risk assessment needs to wear all of this gear, all of the time — it’s only a starting point. Your risk assessment will determine what type of PPE they should wear by considering:
- Job tasks - worker decanting oil from a closed system lube station vs hand pouring from the container.
- Chemical types - diesel fuel vs petrol.
- Concentration levels - diluted cleaning chemicals vs 100% concentrate.
- Quantities - enough chemicals to fully immerse a worker vs only enough to splash on the hand.
- Duration of exposure - walking through the area once per day vs 3 hours a day spray painting.
- Location of work - a spray painter working in a confined space vs open ventilated location.
The suitability of PPE is not determined by how much protection it provides from chemicals — PPE must also be comfortable, a proper fit and not restrict a workers natural movement or vision.
REMEMBER: Include PPE for workers and emergency services personnel responding to fires, chemical spills. Also consider delivery drivers and external contractors who may need to pass through a chemical handling area to carry out their work.
3. Where should PPE be kept?
You’ll want to keep PPE in a location that is both secure and immediately accessible to workers using flammable liquids. We don’t advise storing your PPE in a flammable liquid’s cabinet for three important reasons:
- Chemical liquids, fumes and vapours could penetrate the PPE, rendering it unsafe for use.
- Combustible items (like PPE) should not be stored in flammable liquids cabinets.
- Flammable liquids cabinets are high-tech equipment and designed to provide heat and fire protection for chemicals — this space should not be wasted on PPE.
The best place for PPE is in a dedicated PPE cabinet, made from stainless steel with proper safety signs. These cabinets can be locked and purpose-built to:
- Protect your PPE from water, dust, rats, insects and other vermin.
- Provide a central storage point for PPE and disuade workers from leaving their safety gear lying around, taking it home, or losing it.
- Secure expensive PPE from pilfering and theft.
- Enable you to easily count and maintain adequate stocks.
REMEMBER: Personal protective equipment for flammable and combustible liquids needs to be stored separately to normal clothing. This is a requirement of Australian Standard AS1940:2017.
If you are about to setup or expand your flammable liquids storage areas (either indoor or outdoor) why not download our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. It provides all the information you need to carry out a risk assessment on your flammable liquids and assess the need for both PPE and chemical storage. Shoot us an extra email to firstname.lastname@example.org — and we’ll send over our latest catalogue which displays every PPE and flammable liquids cabinet size. Get in touch today.