Sustaining chemical safety compliance with a risk management methodology

Feb 11, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

100% chemical safety compliance is achieved by having a risk management plan that has regular  review mechanisms in place. This blog introduces you to the STOREMASTA risk management methodology, developed in-house to ensure that every chemical hazard at your workplace is completely identified, then thoroughly assessed, controlled, and periodically reviewed to ensure the harm has been eliminated or minimised to an acceptable level.

 ”The risk management process is implemented in different ways depending on the size and nature of your business or undertaking. Larger businesses and those in sectors where workers are exposed to more or higher risks are likely to need more complex, sophisticated risk management processes.“ Safe Work Australia

STEP 1: Identify

Hazard identification is more than doing a single walk around the job site noting the chemicals and dangerous goods used and stored. Your risk management plan should have trigger points in place, so that the identification process is an ongoing activity. Of course many hazards can be quickly identified from product labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), but also it’s important to recognise that some chemical hazards are not immediately obvious and may not even be noticed until a review of your plan and a follow-up risk assessment takes place.

To ensure that every chemical hazard has been identified (and to sustain safety compliance) we recommend regularly reviewing:

  • Incident, accident and near-miss reports. These can highlight chemical hazards due to unsafe work procedures, ineffective PPE, inadequate training and supervision.

  • Sick leave records. These often uncover accidents that have never been reported or workers who are developing chronic ailments due to prolonged exposure to chemicals.

  • Minutes from safety meetings. This can expose hazards that have been reported to supervisors but never passed up to senior management responsible for risk control.

  • Supplier invoices. This can expose a chemical spill, major leak, or damaged equipment that has never been reported. An out of sequence gas bottle replacement or an additional order for fuel could be uncover an issue with your chemicals that needs investigation.

The STEP 1: IDENTIFY section of your risk management plan will program these checks and balances into ongoing safety audits and risk assessment reviews.

STEP 2: Assess

For each chemical hazard identified at the worksite, your risk management plan needs a mechanism to assess:

  • What type of accidents, incidents, illnesses or otherwise dangerous events could be caused by the chemicals? (eg, fire, toxic gas cloud, acid splashed onto a worker)

  • How frequently could these dangerous incidents occur? (eg, if a chemical is handled 8 hours a day every day, a dangerous event is more likely to occur than if it is handled once a week for 30 minutes)

  • What are the possible consequences of each dangerous incident? (eg, the warehouse burns down, a contractor is killed, a worker develops cancer)

  • The total risk to  your worksite (eg, the likelihood of the event vs the consequences of events)

From here you’ll move to STEP 3: CONTROL and develop risk control measures to either completely eliminate the hazard or minimise the risks to your workers. But to sustain compliance, your risk management plan will need to ensure that this assessment process continues indefinitely. So as new hazards emerge procedures are in place to ensure they are also assessed and controlled.

STEP 3: Control

A compliant risk management plan uses the Hierarchy of Control (HOC) when introducing hazard control measures. The HOC places control measures into groups and then ranks them in order of reliability and effectiveness. For every hazard you should consider at least one control measure from each group.

Let’s look at the HOC and imagine we are applying it to the use of the petrol/gasoline fuel.

  • Elimination - how could you completely eliminate the need to use petrol or any chemical substitute?

  • Substitution - what chemicals could you use instead of petrol that are less harmful?

  • Isolation - how could you isolate human access to the petrol and reduce the amount of people who actually have contact with it.

  • Engineering - what mechanical aids or ventilation systems could be installed to reduce petrol exposure levels.

  • Administration - what safe operating procedures or training programs could you introduce to handle and store the petrol safely?

  • Personal Protective Equipment - what PPE could workers wear or use to minimise exposure to the petrol?

REMEMBER: To sustain compliance, Step 3 Control is not just completed once. You should be continually seeking better and safer ways of operating, and always striving to eliminate hazards completely — even if that does not happen the first time around.

STEP 4: Sustain

The last step in your risk management plan is SUSTAIN. This step is all about the review mechanisms we’ve mentioned earlier. At this point you would be scheduling preventative maintenance, site inspections, and safety audits as well as conducting follow up safety training. You might consider establishing a WHS committee who meet regularly to review chemical hazards, and appointing a Safety Manager who is solely responsible for risk assessment.

Your risk management plan also needs review triggers as new chemicals are introduced into work areas, new staff are appointed, management changes, Australian Safety Standards are updated, or the job site undergoes significant renovations/damage/expansion. Chemical compliance can only occur when you have enough regular reviews to ensure that every single hazard on site has been identified and controlled.

Next steps

For a more detailed guide to reviewing hazard control measures and ensuring your risk management plan remains compliant, download our free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace. We’ve put together a tested and true risk management methodology and set of practical templates and tools you can start using immediately. 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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