If your organisation uses hazardous chemicals, the Work Health and Safety Regulations require you to store them in a safe and compliant manner. Safe storage of hazardous chemicals reduces the risk of harm to human health, property damage and environmental pollution.
Selecting the right storage solutions to control the risks associated with hazardous chemicals can be a difficult task as there are a number of factors that must be considered.
The majority of this article will address how to select the right hazardous substance storage solutions. However, I would like to quickly outline how to identify and assess the risks associated with hazardous chemicals. Identifying and assessing the risks associated with hazardous chemicals will give you the data that is required to implement a storage solution that will successfully control the risks associated with hazardous chemicals.
Before you implement a hazardous substance storage solution, it is important to identify the hazardous substances that are being used in your workplace. The hazardous nature of chemical substances can be identified by checking the label and safety data sheet that comes with the hazardous substance. There are a number of different hazardous substances. Some examples of hazardous substances include:
- Explosive substances
- Flammable gases
- Flammable liquids
- Flammable solids
- Oxidising Agents
- Organic Peroxides
- Toxic substances
- Corrosive Substances
Each classification of hazardous substances present different risks upon the people, property and environment of your organisation. Identifying the classification of the hazardous substances will allow you to determine a suitable storage solution that will reduce the specific risks presented by the hazardous substances being used in your workplace.
Once you have identified all the hazardous substances that are being used in your workplace, you must then conduct a risk assessment. A risk assessment allows you to determine the magnitude of the risks associated with specific hazardous substances that you have stored in your workplace. The magnitude of the risk can be determined by calculating the severity of an incident and the likelihood of it occurring.
Risk = Severity of outcomes x Likelihood of the incident
Carrying out a risk assessment will allow you to determine the level of risk and the necessary controls that will be required to reduce the risk associated with the hazardous chemicals.
Selecting the right storage solution
Once you have identified and assessed the risks associated with the hazardous substances that are being used in your workplace, you will be in a good position to implement a successful hazardous substance storage solution. A successful hazardous substance storage solution, is a solution that actually reduces the risks that the hazardous substances pose upon the people and property of your workplace. We will now discuss some factors that must be considered when implementing a hazardous substance storage solution.
The storage solution must comply with regulation
When implementing a hazardous substance storage solution in your workplace, it is very important to ensure that the solution complies with regulation. Failure to comply with regulation will put your organisation at risk of financial liability.
To ensure that your storage solution complies with regulation, it must be designed and manufactured in full conformance to the relevant Australian Standard. The Australian Standards are not law, however they are considered as an important solution for meeting regulatory compliance. There are nine different dangerous goods classifications and each classification has a corresponding Australian Standard that outlines the storage requirements for that particular classification. The nine dangerous goods classifications and their relevant Australian Standards are outlined below:
Class 1 - Explosives
- AS2187.1-1997 - Explosives Storage, transport and use
Class 2 - Gases
- AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders
Class 3 - Flammable liquids
- AS1940-2017 - The storage and handling of flammable liquids
Class 4 - Flammable Solids
- ASNZS - 5026 - The storage and handling of class 4 dangerous goods
Division 5.1 - Oxidising Agents
- AS4326-2008 - The storage and handling of oxidising agents
Division 5.2 - Organic Peroxides
- AS2714-2008 - The storage and handling of organic peroxides
Division 6.1 - Toxic Substances
- AS NZS4452 - 1997 - The storage and handling of toxic substances
Class 8 - Corrosive Substances
- AS3780-2008 - The storage and handling of corrosive substances
Class 9 - Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods
- The storage and handling of class 9 dangerous goods and articles
The storage solution must be suitable for the specific dangerous goods classification
A dangerous goods storage solution must be suitable for the specific hazardous substances that are being stored within the facility. All dangerous substances pose different risks upon people, property and the environment and each store must be constructed in a way that mitigates the specific risks associated with the hazardous substances being stored.
If a dangerous goods storage facility was manufactured to safely store flammable liquids, it is very unlikely that this store will safely contain another dangerous goods classification such as corrosive substances. Flammable liquids are volatile substances that give off flammable vapours, while corrosive substances are chemicals that break down other materials such as metal and stone. The features that are required to reduce the risk of flammable liquids are vastly different to those required to reduce the risk of corrosive substances. A store for flammable liquids must have adequate ventilation to reduce the concentration of flammable vapours and it must also be constructed from a non-combustible material. One the other hand, a store for corrosive substances must be constructed from a non-corrosive material or coated with a corrosive-resistant lining to protect it from being destroyed. If flammable liquids were stored in a facility with a corrosive resistant construction, it would be unsafe as corrosive resistant materials are often combustible.
Ensure the storage solution is suitable for the surrounding environmental conditions
Another factor that you must consider when implementing hazardous chemical storage solutions is whether the storage facility is suitable for the environment in which it will be installed. The design and construction requirements of dangerous goods storage facilities will depend on the surrounding environmental conditions. For example, if you were seeking to store flammable liquids indoors, you will require a different storage facility to what would be suitable for the outdoor storage of flammable liquids.
In the indoor environment, it is only safe to store smaller quantities of flammable liquids and all vapours must be ventilated to the outdoor environment. To compensate for these factors, all indoor flammable liquids storage cabinets have capacities smaller than 850L and they have the provision to be linked to mechanical ventilation systems. On the other hand, it is safer to store larger quantities of flammable liquids outdoors and hence outdoor storage facilities are a lot larger than indoor storage cabinets. Due to factors such as sun, wind, rain and more extreme temperatures in the outdoor environment, outdoor storage facilities are also often finished with heavy duty coatings to protect the store from corrosion.
There are many factors that must be considered when storing hazardous chemicals in the workplace. To ensure that you implement a storage solution that actually reduces the risks associated with hazardous chemicals, you must firstly identify and assess the risks associated with the hazardous chemicals stored onsite. Once you have obtained this data, you will be ready to implement a solution to control the risk associated with hazardous chemical.
When you implement your storage solution, it is very important that your facility complies with the WHS regulations, is manufactured to safely store the hazardous substances in question and is suitable for the environmental conditions in which it will be installed. If you would like more information on how to manage the risks associated with hazardous chemicals, download our FREE eBook by clicking on the image below.