How to sustain compliance with hazardous chemical storage regulations

Mar 28, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

You’ve been through the whole risk management process and your chemical storage areas are all squeaky clean. Awesome. But before you breathe a sigh of relief… don’t forget that to sustain compliance you’ll need to periodically review the whole system.

Risk management is definitely not a set-and-forget approach to chemical safety and this blog post is all about the follow-up. Making sure you have a clear review process that includes scheduled compliance audits, regular maintenance and follow-up risk assessments. Don’t be like all those Mount Everest climbers who die on the way down the mountain.

Getting your workplace to 100% compliance

First let’s quickly look at the steps required in getting your worksite 100% compliant with chemical safety and storage regulations. The STOREMASTA methodology for chemical risk management consists of four clear steps to compliance:

  •  STEP 1: Identify all the chemical hazards
  •  STEP 2: Assess the dangers associated with each chemical hazard, and work out which ones have the greatest risk to health and safety and are most likely to occur.
  •  STEP 3: Control the risks by either eliminating the chemical hazard completely or redesigning the workplace/operating procedures to reduce the level of harm.
  •  STEP 4: Sustain compliance and chemical safety by scheduling WHS audits, regular maintenance, and follow-up risk assessments.

To achieve 100% compliance, each step is essential and dependent on the other three. For example, you can’t control a chemical hazard (step 3) if you don’t identify the chemical correctly (step 1), at the same time conducting a risk assessment (step 2) without introducing any control measures (step 3) is a waste of time. Once you’ve achieved compliance, step 4 is essential to sustain a safe workplace. And that’s what we are going to talk about now.

TIP: download our free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace for the full the STOREMASTA methodology for chemical risk management. 

Conduct risk assessments

Now that you’ve been through the full risk management process you need to regularly review each of your control measures to make sure they’re working. A follow up risk assessment will identify:

  • Any new chemicals hazards introduced by the control measures
  • Any hazards that were overlooked in the initial risk assessment
  • If there has been an increase or decrease in chemical safety incidents
  • Whether staff are following safety procedures and using PPE correctly

Additionally, each time significant changes are introduced to the workplace you’ll need to conduct a risk assessment. Changes might include heavy staff turnover, new management, emerging technologies that introduce new work methods, chemicals that become obsolete or illegal, or suppliers that go out of business.

Schedule WHS compliance audits

A WHS compliance audit is an analysis of the workplace to assesses each chemical storage area for compliance to current WHS legislation, as well as relevant Codes of Practice and Australian Standards. A WHS compliance audit should be conducted regularly. A WHS compliance audit covers:

  • Staff knowledge and training (toolbox talks, staff meetings, formal training)
  • Physical equipment (PPE, emergency equipment, plant and machinery)
  • Work areas (signage, safety cabinets, ventilation systems)
  • Administrative controls (work methods, emergency procedures)]
  • Documentation (hazardous chemical register, policies, safety manuals)
  • Workplace accidents, incidents and near misses
  • Licences, permits and certifications

WHS compliance audits are best conducted by external consultants who offer objective insights into the workplace. After physically conducting the audit they will prepare a detailed report including the corrective actions that need to be taken to ensure compliance.

Implement a Maintenance Schedule

Finally you should ensure that operational plant and safety equipment is scheduled for regular inspection and maintenance. This includes:

  • Cleaning, testing, and replacing PPE
  • Servicing firefighting equipment
  • Testing and calibrating alarms
  • Inspecting chemical storage containers and safety cabinets
  • Routine maintenance and cleaning of operational plant and machinery
  • Testing air quality and toxicity levels
  • Renewing first aid kits

Scheduled maintenance contributes to a safer workplace, minimises production downtime, and decreases breakdowns and emergencies. And in your chemical storage areas you’ll have the opportunity to investigate any leakages or spills, damage to containers and security breaches.

Next Steps

To achieve and sustain regulatory compliance you’ll need a solid Chemical Management Program (CMP) that includes a system for identifying and controlling chemical hazards. To get started we recommend downloading our free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace. It details the four essential steps of chemical compliance as well as providing a set of practical tools and templates. 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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