Applying the principles of good work design to Flammable Liquids: (PART 1) protecting your workers 

Oct 2, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles
The Australian government and state WHS Regulators have identified that good work design plays a critical role in reducing fatalities, injuries and illnesses in the workplace. In this blog we’ll be unpacking the first principle of good work design — Principle 1: Good work design gives the highest level of protection to workers (so far as is reasonably practicable) — and offering suggestions for incorporating it into your Dangerous Goods storage and handling practices. 

Good work design — Principle 1 

The first principle of good work design focuses on protecting people, and addresses the fundamental purpose of WHS legislation — providing a safe workplace that does not put the health or safety of workers (and other people) at risk. 

Many of our clients find this confusing. After all, if you need to use Class 3 Flammable Liquids and other Dangerous Goods in order to carry out your business, how can it be possible to provide a workplace that has no risk or safety hazards? This really gets us to the heart of good work design.

 

Eliminating or minimising hazards at the source 

Good work design is about applying a risk management approach to every aspect of your business operation — identifying chemical risk, and then finding ways to eliminate (or minimise) each chemical hazard at the source.  

An old-school approach to work design, was to simply purchase masks, gloves and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the workers, and then administrate a policy for them to wear it. The trouble with this approach, is the level of protection is dependent on a human — who is prone to making a mistake — following a procedure or changing their behaviour. 

Good work design principles focus instead on: (1) eliminating the chemical completely, (2) finding safer alternatives and (3) using safety cabinets and other methods to isolate the chemicals from workers. Let’s look at each separately below.  

 1. Eliminating chemical hazards

The first (and most obvious) benefit of good work design is being able to eliminate a hazard before it is even introduced to a job site. For established workplaces, examples of elimination controls include: 

  • Outsourcing different stages of the production cycle to eliminate the need for flammable liquids onsite (eg, having drivers fuel up offsite, which eliminates the need to carry bulk fuel). 
  • Switching to machines or vehicles that don’t require flammable liquids (eg, using electric powered forklifts, mowers and landscaping tools). 
  • Finding work processes that don’t require chemicals (eg, nailing something in place instead of using flammable adhesives). 
  • Changing to non-toxic or Eco based products (eg, using water-based paints instead of enamel paint). 

REMEMBER: These examples are here to demonstrate the process rather than offer practical suggestions. We realise that changing your whole fleet of vehicles to electric powered engines is not an immediate solution. 

 2. Using substitution controls

Good work design has a pro-active focus on finding safer chemicals and work processes. Things like: 

  • Switching to chemicals with less health affects (eg, non-corrosive, non-toxic). 
  • Diluting the chemical concentration so it is less harmful. 
  • Finding flammable chemicals that have a higher flashpoint, and auto-ignition temperature (eg, combustible liquids vs highly flammable liquids). 
  • Changing production processes to reduce the amount of chemicals needed. 
  • Lowering processing temperatures to reduce the likelihood of flashback and ignition. 

3. Isolating chemicals

Good work design also finds ways to restrict the amount of people who have access the chemicals, as well as safely contain flammable vapours and hazardous fumes. Examples of isolation controls include: 

  • For indoor storage, using a Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinet that has been manufactured to the specifications outlined in Australian Safety Standard AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids. 
  • For outdoor storage, using a dedicated flammable liquids store that has ISO locking bars and louvred vents. 
  • Restricting access to the flammable liquids stores and monitoring the area with CCTV surveillance equipment. 

 

Ongoing prevention of workplace injuries, deaths and illness 

Good work design principles focus on the prevention of workplace incidents and injuries, so it is critical to have monitoring and review systems in place. This ensures new hazards are quickly identified, while existing work procedures and safety equipment remain effective and used correctly.  

REMEMBER: The STOREMASTA four-step risk management methodology IDENTIFY - ASSESS - CONTROL - SUSTAIN is one of the best ways to incorporate Good Work Design Principle 1 (protect your people) into the workplace. Learn how, in our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. 

 

Next steps 

Storing Class 3 Flammable Liquids in a safety cabinet that has been manufactured to the specifications of Australian Standard AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids meets all the principles of good work design. For a more detailed understanding of how to apply good chemical storage practices, please download our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. It will help you meet your chemical compliance obligations. 

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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