Every Australian workplace who carries Class 3 Flammable Liquids on their premises has a legal obligation under WHS and Dangerous Goods legislation to protect these chemicals from leaks, spills and uncontrolled releases. And whether it’s a tin of enamel paint — or a bulk tank of unleaded petrol, the duty is the same. In this blog we’ll be identifying some of the key areas where chemical leaks and spills occur and offer some practical prevention strategies.
The first area where chemical spills can occur is during the delivery and receival process. Work with reliable suppliers who use safe loading and packaging practices and strictly follow the requirements of the ADG Code for transporting Dangerous Goods.
When receiving flammable liquid onto the premises, please ensure:
- Chemicals are correctly labelled. Check to ensure Dangerous Goods Labels are in place and chemicals arrive with Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
- Packaged containers are intact and haven’t been damaged while in transit. Check containers for cracks, dents or leaks before accepting them onsite.
- Unload and unpack the chemicals carefully. Use forklifts and lifting aids to reduce the likelihood of containers being dropped.
- Tightly control delivery traffic. Collisions with other vehicles or crashing into a flammable liquids store can cause a major spill as well as a fire or explosion.
- Chemical deliveries are processed and put away immediately. On some of our client’s sites we’ve seen chemical deliveries sitting outside (unprotected) for up to 48 hours before being put away.
- Chemical drums and packaged containers are not piled up or placed in unstable stacks.
Chemical spills during storage usually occur when the organisation has inconsistent housekeeping practices and stores are overloaded and used incorrectly. Our recommendations include:
- Use safety cabinets and storage facilities that are manufactured to AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids and have properly fitted spill containment facilities.
- Don’t load a cabinet or chemical store past its approved capacity rating. The size and efficiency of the spill sump is based on the capacity rating of the cabinet.
- Don’t waste chemical storage space inside the cabinet on tools and utensils that would be better placed in general stores. Sometimes when chemical deliveries sit around for days it’s because there is no space in the flammable liquid storage cabinet.
- Never put a leaking or damaged container inside a flammable storage cabinet. It should be isolated on bunding, tagged and processed for disposal.
- Drums and containers are put away neatly and are fully inside the safety cabinet. Protruding containers will prevent the doors from closing and negate the effectiveness and compliance of the spill sump.
- Have solid inventory controls which enable you to minimise the amount of chemicals and fuel that needs to be stored onsite.
Usage and handling hazards
Chemical spills that occur while flammable liquids are being used or handled usually occur for three reasons. First: the organisation doesn’t have clear and consistent handling procedures. Second: the workers and contractors using the chemicals haven’t been trained properly. And finally: there isn’t enough supervision and enforcement of the training and procedures.
Our recommendations include:
- Chemical containers should never be left with the lids off. It’s so easy to knock over a chemical bottle on a benchtop with your elbow as you turn around.
- Reduce clutter and trip hazards.
- Keep only minimum chemical quantities in work areas.
- Transport chemicals around laboratories in low traffic periods and use proper chemical trolleys and carriers.
- Use absorbent liners (non-flammable) on benchtops and other work areas where spills can be anticipated.
- Provide ongoing training and supervision to workers and contractors.
Many chemical spills occur while decanting the liquid into portable containers. Have strict processes in place because decanting spills have cost the lives of many workers around the world — Class 3 Flammable Liquids are capable of quickly igniting and exploding, as well as causing terrible inhalation and exposure injuries.
When decanting Class 3 Flammable Liquids we recommend:
- Having a dedicated decanting station that is isolated from site personnel, operations and (most importantly) ignition sources.
- Where possible, use secondary containment systems and equipment.
- Use only containers and pouring implements that are manufactured for use with Class 3 Flammable Liquids. Containers made from incompatible materials can react with the chemicals or deteriorate rapidly.
- Have strict hand-pouring procedures in place so that workers and contractors are:
- Wearing proper PPE.
- Using control-pour methods.
- Not overfilling containers.
- Concentrating on what they are doing (eg, not chatting to a co-worker about the federal election while decanting).
- Properly stabilised (eg, standing on both feet, not tip-toes) and using both hands.
- Conducting the entire decanting task over bunding.
One of the most efficient ways of preventing chemical spills is to use a compliant flammable liquids cabinet. These cabinets have a liquid tight spill sump and enable you to safely dispose of chemical waste while preventing it from entering drains and waterways. Why not download our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors and learn more about how to meet your compliance obligations for Class 3 Flammable Liquids. Download and read it today by clicking on the image below: