How to prevent incidents from hazardous chemicals used in the workplace

Jul 9, 2018 Posted by Walter Ingles

 Incidents from hazardous chemicals have shut down whole towns, decimated coastlines and cost the lives of thousands of workers from all over the world…most times needlessly. This blog introduces the STOREMASTA Chemical Management Methodology as a complete system (in just 4 steps) to reduce the likelihood of chemical incidents occurring at your workplace.

4 STEPS TO CHEMICAL SAFETY

STOREMASTA methodology - Identify - Assess - Control - Sustain

 REMEMBER: the STOREMASTA Chemical Management Methodology helps you identify and prioritise your hazard prevention and safety control strategies and sustain compliance.

STEP 1: IDENTIFY the Chemical Hazards

The first step to preventing chemical incidents is to clearly identify:

  • The chemicals you are using and storing (get the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) from the supplier and read thoroughly)
  • Where they are being used and stored (physically walk around the workplace with a sitemap)
  • How they are being used and stored (observe staff, talk to supervisors, review operating procedures, visit storage areas)
  • The toxicity and health hazards of each of the chemicals (what happens if the chemical is swallowed, ingested, absorbed by the skin, or inhaled?).
  • The physiochemical hazards that affect handling and storage (are they flammable, explosive, self-reactive?)
  • Any environmental concerns (are they toxic to wildlife or generate harmful emissions?)
  • What safety measures are already implemented in the workplace (PPE, safety cabinets, emergency planning)

From here you can identify the hazards and begin a chemical risk assessment.

TIP: A good way to make sure you don’t overlook any chemical hazards is to use a floor plan of your premises and mark all the locations where hazardous chemicals are present.

STEP 2: ASSESS the Risk of Chemical Incidents

The risk assessment must systematically include each of the hazards you identified in Step 1. Your risk assessment will consider: 

  • What chemical incidents could occur? This first step is often the most overwhelming for employers and safety managers. You’ll need to address each chemical and list things like leaks, spills, fires, explosions, dangerous chemical reactions.
  • How frequently could they occur? Here you’ll be taking into consideration how often the chemicals are used, as well as past incidences of equipment failure, accidental breakages, and human error.
  • What the consequences of each chemical incident could be? Your responses here will include the immediate dangers of acute exposure to workers, but will also consider the long-term health effects of chemical exposure, and how the chemicals effect the environment.

TIP: As you carry out these risk assessments on the different locations where hazardous chemicals are stored in your workplace, it is important to keep track of all the data in a central location. Our free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace includes a Risk Management Matrix Template. Download it now.

STEP 3: Priorities and Implement CONTROL Measures

Controlling the chemical hazards at your workplace has two elements.

First, engineering a safe workplace, job design, storage areas, and safety cabinets so staff are using, handling and storing all chemicals safely. And secondly, ensuring site personnel are alert, trained, and ready for accidents and emergencies — this includes having the necessary equipment (think PPE, firefighting gear, safety showers).

Control measures include eliminating the hazard completely, substituting the chemical for something safer, engineering a safer site layout and job design, introducing administrative controls and safe operating procedures, having staff use PPE.

Even though you must control every risk and hazard identified, it’s practically impossible to do them all at once. So control measures should be prioritised according to the greatest amount of risk upon people, the property and the environment.

Once you’ve implemented control measures you should conduct another risk assessment to make sure you haven’t introduced new hazards into the workplace. A good example of this might be substituting a chemical for something ‘less harmful’ to workers only to discover the new chemical is incompatible to another substance on site. Now you have a new explosive hazard.

TIP: Our free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace introduces the Hierarchy of Control and explains how to use it to comply with the WHS legislation in your state or territory.

STEP 4: Review the Program and SUSTAIN Safety Compliance

To SUSTAIN chemical safety and compliance at your workplace you need a system to ensure that Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment is reviewed periodically. Especially when;

  • A chemical incident occurs
  • New chemicals are introduced to the workplace
  • Changes are made to the layout and design of the work site
  • New technologies in safety management become available
  • Information about the behaviour and toxicology of hazardous chemicals is updated
  • There is a significant turnover of staff or change in management

Workplace risk management should never be considered finished; because as things change, so will your control measures.

TIP: don’t forget that sometimes control measures introduce new hazards to the workplace, so always conduct a new risk assessment on each of the control measures.

Next Steps

Now you know more about the STOREMASTA Chemical Management Methodology are you ready to implement it into your workplace? We recommend you download our FREE eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace and follow our step-by-step guide and action plan to prevent incidents from hazardous chemicals occurring at your workplace. Download and read it today by clicking on the image below:

How to manage the risk of hazardous chemicals in the workplace

Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Adviser. He loves helping business reduce the risk that Dangerous Goods pose upon their employees, property and the environment through safe and compliant dangerous goods storage solutions.

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