Today’s blog discusses Good Work Design Principle 9 — managing hazards and actively pursuing continuous improvement. We’ll be demonstrating what risk management and continuous improvement looks like in practice — especially when managing Class 3 Flammable Liquids. This blog is part of a series on applying the principles of good work design to flammable liquids safety management.
Principle 9 — Good work design identifies hazards, assesses and controls risks, then actively pursues continuous improvement. Safe Work Australia.
Good Work Design - Principle 9
Principle 9 of good work design is all about risk management and continuous improvement — and having systems in place to ensure that:
- Developing safe work systems is not just a one-off activity, but an ongoing process. Eg, carrying out monthly audits of chemical handling and storage areas.
- Operating procedures are 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.
- Changes in legislation and safety standards are incorporated into business practices. Eg, replacing older style flammable liquids cabinets that do not have self-closing doors.
Risk management in practice
The STOREMASTA risk management methodology IDENTIFY - ASSESS - CONTROL - SUSTAIN is a living example of Good Work Design Principle 9. It ensures that all hazards in the workplace are systematically eliminated or minimised, and then monitored.
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 — not just 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 example, the identification process will involve interviewing workers and gathering information about work practices to understand why the cabinet is being overloaded, as well as the reasons for locating a metal rack so close to the cabinet.
STEP 2 — Assess
The second step 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 — but they may also be disinclined to follow procedure and put things away properly. Simply because it’s a difficult area to navigate.
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.
- Eliminate - find ways to remove the hazard completely.
- Substitute - find safer alternatives.
- Engineer/Isolate - use equipment (eg, safety cabinets), machinery, and the design of physical work areas to isolate the hazard.
- Administrate - implement safe working procedures and supervision.
- PPE - have workers wear protective devices.
In our example (above) it might seem most 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 (eg, operating procedures, site rules, training, and supervision) should be accompany all other hazard controls.
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.
Ultimately good work design is having an ongoing system that continually refines work procedures and measures the results
Using safety cabinets that have been purpose-built for Class 3 Flammable Liquids is an important part of good work design. But like all hazard control measures, safety cabinets require ongoing inspections and maintenance to ensure they are being used correctly and remain compliant. To learn more about essential monitoring and maintenance practices for your chemical storage area, please download our comprehensive eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. It’s completely free.