SUSTAIN: 5 actions for maintaining chemical hazard controls

Jan 25, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

Getting your workplace 100% chemical safety compliant can be achieved by following a tested risk management plan that has a system for ensuring that hazard control measures are periodically reviewed and maintained. This blog outlines five actions for ensuring the chemical hazards at your workplace are always minimised and controlled.

"The control measures you, as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned. Don’t wait until something goes wrong." - Safe Work Australia

ACTION 1: Carry out another risk assessment

You’ve finished your risk assessment, purchased dedicated chemical stores for each hazard class, setup up bunded decanting stations, trained your staff, and refined your supply chain. What now? Your first action is to carry out another risk assessment.

This follow up risk assessment follows the same three steps (IDENTIFYING chemical hazards - ASSESSING the risk to health and safety - introducing CONTROL measures) and focuses on whether:

  • New hazards have been created (eg, you purchase flammable liquids cabinets and staff start storing personal items, building materials, and other chemicals on top of them)

  • Anything was missed in the original assessment (eg, you didn’t include your contract cleaners chemical store and realise now it is on your premises so must be included).

ACTION 2: Develop review triggers

We suggest developing a series of review triggers. By this we mean an event, purchase, or change in legislation that could increase the level of risk to your workers — this would trigger a review of your chemical hazards and control measures. Review triggers can include:

  • New chemicals or Dangerous Goods introduced to the workplace

  • Business growth that changes the amount of hazardous chemicals used and stored onsite

  • Physical changes to the job site, or work areas (eg, renovations, extensions, new plant and machinery)

  • A notifiable incident, accident or near-miss

  • Turnover of staff or management

LEGISLATION: A ‘notifiable incident’ is: the death of a person; or a ‘serious injury or illness’, or a ‘dangerous incident’ arising out of the conduct of a business or undertaking at a workplace.

ACTION 3: Schedule regular workplace safety audits

The most simple workplace audit is a walk site around to physically inspect chemical stores and working areas. Chemical safety audits should be carried out periodically to ensure that:

  • Chemicals are correctly labeled and work/storage areas have the required placards and safety signs

  • The Register of Hazardous Chemicals contains the name of each chemical onsite and has a current Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each substance

  • SDSs are accessible by workers and contractors using the chemicals

  • Workers and contractors have been properly trained, are following safety procedures, and are using PPE correctly

  • Chemicals and Dangerous Goods are being put away correctly

  • Chemical stores and bunds are not overloaded

  • Chemical spill kits are available in relevant work and storage areas

  • Emergency showers, eye wash stations, and first aid kits are installed and fully operational

  • Chemical containers are intact and not leaking

  • There are no out-of-date chemicals or gas cylinders

  • Work areas are kept clean and tidy according to housekeeping policies

One of the most common problems we identify during the safety audits we carry out for our clients are chemical stores and safety cabinets that are filled with mixed substances, leaking and open containers — or the top becomes a dumping ground for personal items and loose paperwork. Regular safety audits helps supervisors enforce safe housekeeping and workplace hygiene practices.

ACTION 4: Program preventative maintenance

Accidents and unacceptable chemical exposure can occur when operating plant, machinery, tools, storage equipment, and PPE is not maintained correctly. We suggest scheduling maintenance to ensure that:

  • Chemical stores are intact (eg, free of debris, tree branches, corrosion, dents from impact, damaged restraint chains)

  • Chemical containers are clean, not leaking, and the lids fit properly

  • Gas cylinders have intact valves and safety caps

  • Mechanical ventilation systems are maintained and fully operational

  • Air monitoring alarms are calibrated and working correctly

  • Fire fighting equipment is where it should be an fully operational

  • Pipes and ducting are clear with no residue buildup

  • PPE is clean and fully operational

  • Machinery is cleared of dust, metal grindings, and other debris

ACTION 5: Implement remedial training

Most chemical hazard control measures won’t work if staff don’t follow procedures or know what to do. It’s not enough to send a new worker or contractor to a 30 minute site induction and expect they will then be able to carry out all their tasks safely and correctly. Site inductions and on-the-job training must be supported with remedial training, particularly when:

  • New chemicals, machinery, and operating plant is introduced

  • Changes in safety rules and work procedures

  • Workers have been away from their normal duties for a long time (eg, working offsite, long service leave, recovering from an injury)

  • Individuals are observed not following safety procedures or clearly don’t understand how to carry out a task safely

Apart from actual chemical handling and decanting, remedial training can include reminders about site rules, restricted areas, banned substances, chemical hazards, and the action to take during a chemical emergency.

Next steps

Keeping your chemical hazards controlled and your workplace ‘LOW RISK’ is the result of consistent effort while using a proper risk management methodology. We suggest now ACTION 6 — downloading our free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace for a complete understanding of chemical risk management. 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 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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