To manage the hazards associated with chemical spills, bunding is required as part of your secondary containment strategy. Put simply, a spill bund is an embankment or wall that form part, or all, of the perimeter of your spill containment area. Examples of bunding systems commonly used in workplaces can include steel bunds, floor bunds, drum bunds, intermediate bulk container bunds, bunded storage and bunded shelving — to name just some of the many solutions on the market.
In this blog, we look at the hazards associated with chemical spills and explain why the dangerous goods classification of the chemical that you are storing is the first step in determining what bunds you’ll need.
Hazards Associated with Chemical Spills and Leaks
Spills and leaks within the workplace can result in a range of serious issues including:
- Health hazards – people are harmed due to contact with the chemical spill, leak and/or associated vapours
- Property damage – chemicals such as flammable liquids, explosives and compressed gases can cause extensive damage to property
- Risk of fire and explosion – certain chemicals can catch on fire or explode if they are near an ignition source
- Water pollution – if secondary containment measures are not employed, chemicals can enter the water systems through drains or seepage
- Soil contamination – chemical spills can seep into the soil and contaminate the environment
Types Of Bund Products
There are a variety of spill containment bunds with temporary and permanent options available.
Some types of bunds commonly found in Australian workplaces include:
- Floor bunding – installed to control chemical spills on workplace floors
- Intermediate bulk container (ICB) bunds – for hazardous liquids that are stored in bulk containers of 1000 litres
- Bunded pallets / drum bund – for the safe storage of chemical and oil drums
- Bunded shelving – to protect hazardous substances while being stored in the workplace on open shelves
Your choice of bund will be determined by the class of dangerous goods that you are using and storing in your organisation, as well as the individual requirements of your operation.
Most organisations will have to use a variety of bunding products to provide a complete secondary containment solution for their workplace.
The EPA recommends that bunding and secondary containment measures are determined on a site-by-site basis. This ensures that they are meeting the needs of the organisation and that the bunding solutions are compliant with WHS regulations.
Regulations For Spills and Dangers
Regarding the containment and management of chemical spills in the workplace, Australian businesses are bound by law to comply with WHS Regulations.
The WHS Regulation states that:
Subdivision 2 Spills and Damage
357 Containing and managing spills
- A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that where there is a risk from a spill or leak of a hazardous chemical in a solid or liquid form, provision is made in each part of the workplace where the hazardous chemical is used, handled, generated or stored for a spill containment system that contains within the workplace any part of the hazardous chemical that spills or leaks, and any resulting effluent.
According to the WHS Regulations, provision must be made in workplaces to ensure a spill containment system is utilised where there is a risk from a spill or leak of a hazardous chemical.
Individuals can face fines up to $6 000 and body corporates up to $30 000 if the spill is not adequately contained.
Bunding For Flammable or Combustible Substances
Bunding is designed to not only contain spills, but to prevent further workplace hazards from occurring. When dealing with flammable or combustible substances, the chemical spill can quickly travel — increasing the potential for hazard by coming into contact with possible ignition sources such as flames and hot surfaces as well as electrical, mechanical or chemical ignition sources. Common workplace equipment such as electric motors, soldering irons equipment and even stoves can be an ignition source for flammable chemical substances.
As well as the risks involved with damage to property and the environment, there are serious health hazards involved with chemical spills and leaks. Chemicals may be accidently inhaled, ingested, splashed into eyes or absorbed through the skin when a spillage occurs, which puts the people in your organisation at risk of acute health effects.
If your organisation works with or stores flammable liquids or combustible substances, you must manage the risks involved with chemical spills. You are required by law to devise a secondary containment plan, and apply the appropriate bunding products to your secondary containment areas.
Steel Bunds Vs Polyethylene Bunds
As secondary containment and bunding is a legal required as stated in WHS Regulation, it’s important to make the provision for a bunding solution that is safe and compliant.
Spill bunds may be manufactured from steel (metal bunds) or polyethylene (plastic bunds), with each bunding material suiting a specific class of dangerous goods.
Steel Bund Applications
The Australian Standard (AS 1940-2017) details the requirements for storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids.
In reference to the spill containment of flammable liquids, AS 1940-2017 states:
4.4.3 Spillage containment
Provision shall be made to contain any leaks or spillages, and to prevent them from
contaminating the surrounding soil or entering any watercourse or water drainage system.
The following requirements apply:
(a) A spillage containment compound shall be sufficiently impervious to retain spillage
and to enable recovery of any such spillage. The compound shall be chemically
resistant and fire resistant as far as is necessary to fulfil its functions.
NOTE: Portable bunding units, e.g. bunded pallets, or flexible bunding units are not suitable for permanent storage as there are no uniform performance criteria for chemical resistance or fire resistance and they can be easily moved to an unsuitable location. They may be suitable for the short-term holding of damaged packages, or where goods are in transit or in manufacturing and handling areas.
Therefore, when choosing bunds for this type of spillage containment compound, you should focus on permanent bunding solutions instead of temporary bunds such as portable or collapsible bunds – which are designed for remote worksites or temporary storage facilities.
Steel bunds are suitable for the storage of:
- Flammable Liquids
- Toxic Substances
- Oxidising Agents
- Organic Peroxides
NOTE: If steel bund systems (such as a heavy duty steel bund) are custom made with corrosive resistant sump liners, they can be used to store corrosive substances.
Polyethylene Bund Applications
According to the Australian Standard (AS 3780-2008) for the storage and handling of corrosive substances, corrosives are:
Substances that, by chemical action, will cause severe damage when in contact with living tissue, or in the case of leakage, will materially damage, or even destroy, other goods or the means of transport; they may also cause other hazards. Such substances are listed as Class 8 corrosive substances in the ADG Code or meet the classification criteria specified in that Code for corrosive substances.
The standard states the requirements for bunds and containment compounds when managing the risks of corrosive substances spills and leaks:
5.4 BUNDS AND COMPOUNDS
5.4.3 Design and construction
Compounds and, where they are provided, bunds shall comply with the following requirements:(a) The materials of construction shall be substantially immune to attack by any corrosive substance that they may be required to contain.
(b) They shall be sufficiently impervious to retain and to enable the recovery of any spillage.
Polyethylene bunds are suitable for the storage of:
- Corrosive Substances
- Toxic Substances
- Oxidising Agents
- Organic Peroxides
Selecting Spill Bunds By Dangerous Goods Class
To summarise information from the Australian Standard, if you are storing flammable liquids, they must be kept in steel bunds to prevent a fire hazard.
If you are storing corrosive substances, you will need to make sure that the bund will not succumb to a chemical attack caused by the corrosive chemical. Therefore, polyethylene bunds are suitable for the safe storage of corrosive substances, as well as other non-flammable substances.