What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of a chemical spill? A major oil spill affecting the coastline, ocean birds and marine animals? Activists and politicians pointing fingers, and a media blast through your Facebook feed. Chances are the image that comes into your head isn’t a tin of paint getting knocked over or a leaking jerry can of petrol. But small quantities of flammable and combustible liquids that leak or spill can also have dire consequences for your workplace, causing fires, explosions, injures and environmental damage. Today’s blog is about fulfilling your legal obligation to contain leaks and spills — whether you carry 10,000 litres of petrol or just two.
Flammable liquids and spill hazards
Every Australian business that carries any type of hazardous chemical has a legal obligation to have a spill containment system in place to manage leaks or spills (including the resulting effluent). Failure to comply can result in fines of up to $30,000 for each offence.
But apart from your legal obligation to manage chemical leaks and spills, flammable liquids create a series of complex hazards at a workplace. Having proper spill containment systems and bunding can prevent fires and explosions, chemical exposure injuries and catastrophic damage to the natural environment. We’ll unpack this below:
1. Fires and explosions
Flammable liquids produce vapours that are heavier than the air that surrounds us. Once a container of chemicals is opened (or spills on the ground) these flammable vapours escape and create a vapour trail. Did you know that some chemical vapours are still capable of igniting even 100 metres from the source, and in a confined space can become explosive?
Spilled chemicals can soak into the ground, wooden pallets, brooms, rags, and clothing — and remain flammable for a long time. But even worse, flammable liquids that have ignited can actually travel down stairs, under doorways, and around corners — basically spreading a fire and giving it enormous reach.
2. Chemical exposure
Many flammable liquids are harmful to human health if inhaled, ingested, swallowed, or splashed on the eyes and skin. Site personnel can be harmed during spill clean-up, but workers or contractors entering an area with no spill containment system may be exposed to unsafe chemical concentrations — without even realising they are in danger.
3. Environmental damage
Flammable and combustible liquids are often corrosive and toxic to the natural environment, particularly if the chemicals enter drains and waterways. Some flammable solvents are so toxic they can permanently contaminate groundwater just by soaking into the soil.
REMEMBER: Australian businesses who use and store hazardous chemicals also have responsibilities under the Environmental Protection Agency in their home state or territory.
Compliant bunding for flammable liquids
To ensure your chemical storage and handling areas are fully compliant with WHS Legislation and Australian Safety Standards spill bunding must be:
- Impervious — ie, sturdy enough to hold the chemicals, and well-constructed so chemicals will not leak at the seams or drain plugs.
- Chemically resistant — ie, made (or finished) from materials that will not react with the chemicals and produce rust or corrosion.
- Fire resistant — ie, made from steel or other non-combustible material.
- Capable of recovering chemicals — ie, use a drain plug or have removable grates so spilled chemicals can be removed and disposed of safely.
“Provision shall be made to contain any leaks or spillages, and to prevent them from contaminating the surrounding soil or entering any watercourse or water drainage system.”
Section 4.4.3 Australian Standard AS1940:2017.
Spill bunding around the job site
Most job sites need a mix of permanent and temporary spill containment systems, this can be achieved by using:
- Dedicated indoor storage cabinets that provide liquid tight spill containment.
- Outdoor chemical stores that have compliant spill containment.
- Closed decanting systems and lube stations that have inbuilt spill protection.
- Relocatable spill bunding for temporary storage.
We recommend using spill bunds made from heavy duty steel in each of the following work areas:
Have under-pallet bunds located in the delivery intake and receiving areas to ensure your flammable liquids have spill protection from the moment they arrive onsite. We see countless work places with chemicals sitting on the ground (without spill protection) for days before someone is able to process the order and transfer to the chemical store.
Use under-pallet bunds, drum caddies, and IBC bunds in chemical decanting areas. Even better install a closed decanting system or lube station that fully encloses the chemicals and has an inbuilt spill containment system.
Keep your flammables inside fully compliant indoor storage cabinets with compliant spill sump. For added protection and efficiency use spill trays and replaceable drain plugs.
5. Manufacturing and waste
Place working quantities of chemicals on spill bunds and trolleys in manufacturing and handling areas — as well as isolation points for chemical waste awaiting collection.
REMEMBER: STOREMASTA spill bunds are manufactured to Australian Standards and are built for the tough Australian climate. They last for years and have forklift channels for safe transfer around the job site.
Flammable liquids cabinets that have been manufactured to AS1940:2017 – The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids offer liquid tight spill protection for your chemicals. For more information about ensuring your flammable liquids are stored correctly indoors please download our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. It contains everything you need to select, install, and maintain a compliant indoor safety cabinet — including instructions for carrying out a supporting risk assessment. Download and read it today by clicking on the image below: