Good Work Design: The Systematic Approach To Flammable Liquids Risk Management

Originally published December 17, 2021 12:49:09 AM, updated January 20, 2022

As part of our series on good work design, we’ll now be looking at Principle 9 and how this applies to flammable liquids safety management.  We’ll be demonstrating what risk management and continuous improvement looks like in practice — especially when it comes to the management of Class 3 Flammable Liquids in the workplace. The goal of this series is to provide guidance so you can adapt the principles of good work design to Dangerous Goods areas of your business. By doing so, you’ll be able to continually improve on the work health and safety of your flammable liquids (and other Dangerous Goods) operations. 

“Principle 9: Good work design identifies hazards, assesses and controls risks, then actively pursues continuous improvement.”

Safe Work Australia 

Explaining Principle 9: Good Work Design  

Principle 9 of Safe Work Australia’s Good Work Design focuses on risk management and continuous improvement. 

It suggests that you should: 

  • Take a systematic approach with risk management 
  • You should incorporate good work design into your business processes 
  • Ensure that designs (and redesigns) are monitored and adjusted to suit the current workplace environment 
How to structure a chemical risk assessment

Good work design can be applied to the Dangerous Goods risk management process.

Risk management and continuous improvement can be applied to the following flammable liquids safety systems and operating procedures:  

  • Effective safe work systems – you should develop safe work systems for your Dangerous Goods areas, not just a one-off activity, but an ongoing process. 
    Eg, carrying out monthly audits of chemical handling and storage areas. 
  • Adaptable operating procedures – when it comes to your flammable liquids operating procedures, they must be monitored and adapted as the workplace changes. 
    Eg, conducting a risk assessment before production increases to evaluate the risk associated with the extra flammable liquids that will be required. 
  • Compliant systems – your systems should follow any required changes in WHS legislation and Australian Safety Standards (AS 1940:2017). Your flammable liquids safety systems should be based on the requirements of WHS and the Australian Standards, with any updates noted and immediately actioned. 
    Eg, replacing older style flammable liquids cabinets that do not have self-closing doors. 

Install flammable cabinetEnsure that your flammable liquids safety procedures and work systems are safe, adaptable and compliant.

Flammable Liquids Risk Management In Practice 

The STOREMASTA risk management methodology IDENTIFY - ASSESS - CONTROL - SUSTAIN is a living example of Good Work Design Principle 9. This methodolgy ensures that all hazards in the workplace are systematically eliminated or minimised — and then monitored. 

We’ll explain how you can apply this risk management methodology to your own workplace by referencing an example of a flammable liquids safety issue. 

Flammable storage cabinetYou can easily apply the risk management methodology to your own flammable liquids storage and handling areas.

WORKPLACE EXAMPLE: You have a flammable liquids cabinet for paint tins and solvents. Because the paint isn’t used very often, some metal racks for machinery spare parts have been installed in front of the cabinets. The doors to the cabinet cannot fully open. The cabinet is overloaded, and paints have been put in the spill compound. 

STEP 1 — Identify  

The first step in our risk management methodology is about identification. This step isn’t just about identifying specific hazards (eg, overloaded flammable cabinet) — but establishing the risk context and overall issue (eg, an attitude of disdain for the hazardous nature of flammable paints and solvents).  

In our workplace example, the identification process will involve interviewing workers and gathering information about work practices to understand why the cabinet is being overloaded. It will also uncover the reasons for locating a metal rack so close to the cabinet. 

REMEMBER: A flammable liquids storage cabinet is only compliant when it is installed, used and maintained in the correct manner. If your work practices are hindering the effectiveness of the cabinet’s risk control measures, then you are creating a Dangerous Goods hazard.  

STEP 2 — Assess 

The second step in the risk management process, is to assess the impacts of the hazards (and the overall issue).  

Overloading a flammable liquids cabinet increases the risk of fire, explosion, and uncontrolled chemical spill — but a metal rack obstructing access to the cabinet has wider implications. The limited space makes workers more vulnerable to manual handling injuries and dropping a chemical container. Because the area is difficult to navigate, staff may also be disinclined to follow procedure and put things away properly.  

IMPORTANT: When flammable cabinets are not used in a safe, compliant way, you can increase the risk of fire and explosion, hazardous vapour emissions, chemical spills, environmental damage, asphyxiation and human harm. 

STEP 3 — Control 

Working through the risk management methodology, we now look for ways to eliminate or minimise each of the hazards. Our methodology uses the Hierarchy of Controls outlined in the WHS Regulations for selecting suitable risk controls.  

  1. Eliminate - find ways to remove the hazard completely. 
  2. Substitute - find safer alternatives. 
  3. Engineer/Isolate - use equipment (eg, safety cabinets), machinery, and the design of physical work areas to isolate the hazard.  
  4. Administrate - implement safe working procedures and supervision. 
  5. PPE - have workers wear protective devices.  
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for flammable liquids

The Hierarchy of Controls includes five steps to minimise risk in the workplace, with the wearing and maintenance of PPE the last step in the risk control process.

In our workplace example, it might seem obvious to just stop overloading the cabinet and transfer the metal rack to another area. But if there is an overall attitude of disdain toward flammable liquids, you may find the hazards are simply relocated somewhere else. Eg, being no space in the flammable liquid’s cabinet, excess paint tins and solvents are put on a pallet at the back of the workshop with no spill protection or warning signs. 

Your overall solution might involve installing an additional safety cabinet and conducting a major clean-up of the site to free-up space. Then implementing a flammable liquids awareness program that reaches all staff and site contractors.  

Good Work Design Principle 9 suggests generating multiple solutions and evaluating the risk associated with each, then selecting the best solution. Once implemented, each control should be rigorously tested to ensure it has been installed (and being used) correctly. 

IMPORTANT: In our experience, Administrative Controls — such as flammable liquids operating procedures, site rules, staff training and supervision — should be accompanied by other hazard controls such as compliant Dangerous Goods storage systems or chemical handling equipment. 

STEP 4 — Sustain 

The final step in the STOREMASTA methodology is to develop ongoing monitoring and feedback systems to keep hazard controls safe, effective, and compliant. This is usually achieved by carrying out: 

  • Regular inspections and preventative maintenance.  
  • Safety audits and follow-up risk assessments.  
  • Feedback sessions with the workers and contractors who are engaged in the job tasks. 

Locking flammable cabinet

It’s vital that your systems remain safe and compliant through regular maintenance, inspections, audits and follow-up risk assessments.

Ultimately good work design is having an ongoing system that continually refines work procedures and measures the results 

REMEMBER: Workplaces are in a constant state of change and must continue to ensure that all implemented hazard controls are still applicable over time. Any change in your workplace, such as different  chemicals being used onsite, new staff members joining the team or changes in procedure, can affect how suitable a control measure is. By ensuring that inspections, preventative maintenance, safety audits and risk assessments are conducted on a regular basis, you’ll be able to create and maintain a safer and more compliant workplace.  

How Do You Approach Flammable Liquids Safety In Your Workplace? 

As we’ve explained in our blog, Good Work Design Principle 9 focuses on identifying hazards, assessing and controlling risks — and then actively pursuing continuous improvement. This principle directly correlates with our own methodology of ASSESS – IDENTIFY – CONTROL – SUSTAIN. We understand the importance of developing an effective risk control system. Our team also highly recommends monitoring and reviewing your  flammable liquids safety systems and hazard controls to ensure they  continue to remain safe, compliant — and relevant to your changing needs. 

An important part of good work design is choosing compliant Dangerous Goods Storage. By selecting a safety cabin purpose-built for Class 3 Flammable Liquids, you’ll be taking one of the first crucial steps towards chemical compliance. Like all hazard control measures, safety cabinets require ongoing inspections and maintenance to ensure they are being used correctly and remain compliant. If you’d like to learn more about essential monitoring and maintenance practices for your chemical storage areas, please download our comprehensive eBook. Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors will lead you through your obligations and options in an easy-to-follow format. Access your copy for free today by clicking on the image below. 

Essential Considerations when Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors download Free eBook

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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