Working with suppliers and contractors to minimise chemical hazards

Dec 26, 2018 Posted by Walter Ingles

The risks surrounding hazardous chemicals can be difficult to define and often have multiple layers because many different parties contribute to the hazards. A delivery driver from an LPG supply company causes an explosion by recklessly throwing cylinders over the side of a truck; a contract engineer brings a can of aerosol spray paint to mark cutting points and ignites an acetylene bottle; a contract cleaner leaves a plastic cup of clear corrosive chemical in the staff kitchen and a worker accidentally drinks the fluid thinking it to be water.

This blog is all about working safely with the contractors and suppliers who keep your organisation operating — but also affect the overall safety of the site. Ultimately it’s about working together (cooperating and collaborating), so that chemical risks are minimised.

NOTE: A delivery company contracted by a chemical supplier to transport and deliver hazardous chemicals to your worksite has a duty to ensure that their workers (as well as yours) are not put at risk when making those deliveries.

Working with chemical suppliers

Building solid relationships is a key step in chemical safety management. We’ve listed below some examples of how to work with chemical suppliers to improve workplace safety.

  • Australian Safety Standards require that stocks of hazardous substances and Dangerous Goods are kept at minimum (but still practicable) levels. A reputable supplier helps you minimise chemical stocks when they provide a fast order-despatch service.

  • Empty chemical containers often carry chemical residues and in many cases are still classed as Dangerous Goods (eg, gas cylinders). Having a supplier who regularly takes away empty cylinders or provides returnable containers for chemicals like solvents also reduces onsite chemical hazards.

  • Many laboratories create a working relationship with their chemical suppliers so they are able to purchase precise quantities of hazardous substances or even ready-to-use blends. This reduces the amount of raw materials they need to keep onsite as well as engage in hazardous chemical mixing and decanting.

  • Manufacturers and suppliers know their chemicals better than anyone and can help you develop spill clean-up procedures and equipment for the chemicals you hold onsite.

  • Involving suppliers in the risk management process can help you better understand chemical health hazards, select the best PPE, and develop emergency response plans.

IMPORTANT: In some instances employees of your suppliers (eg, delivery companies) may be required to undergo a site safety induction before delivering chemicals and Dangerous Goods.

Ensuring contractors minimise chemical hazards

Contractors have a legal duty of care when at your worksite supplying materials and substances;  using dangerous goods and hazarding chemicals; and installing plant and equipment. When engaging contractors make sure they they:

  • Have an effective work health and safety (WHS) management system in place at their business that includes processes for dealing with safety issues that emerge while working at your site.

  • Are willing to consult with you about chemicals risks and WHS generally.

  • Understand that non-compliance with the WHS policies and procedures at your job site can result in termination of their contracted services.

DEFINITION: A contractor is a worker who carries out work for your organisation but is not directly employed by you. It could be the technician testing fire extinguishers near the flammable liquids store; or contract cleaners who bring their own cleaning supplies onsite (which are also hazardous chemicals).

Safety inductions for chemical contractors

When contractors work on your site they must receive a safety induction, this includes hire workers from labour companies. The safety induction should include the following information:

  • Site rules: no smoking zones, restricted areas, banned substances/equipment (eg, aerosols, electronics that generate static electricity).

  • Hazards they may encounter on the site, plus any PPE requirements

  • Emergency procedures including the location of exit points; fire fighting equipment; safety showers; eyewash stations; and first aid kits.

  • How to report safety issues, dangerous events, or workplace accidents.

  • Their WHS duties onsite — eg, to keep themselves safe, not behave in a way that endangers another person, follow reasonable instructions and safety procedures.

Even after receiving safety induction, onsite contractors still need supervision and management. You need to make sure they are not put in danger themselves, or their activities don’t create additional risks for existing workers on the job site. If they’re working on the site long term they may also require job-specific training and induction refreshers.

NOTE: Site visitors and contractors do NOT require a safety induction if they have another staff member with them at all times AND they are not doing work that has any WHS risks or chemical hazards.

Next Steps

Now you understand how suppliers and external contractors can impact (or cause) the chemical risks and overall safety of a job site, would you like more information about how to carry out a full chemical risk assessment? Download our  free eBook How to manage the risk of Hazardous Chemicals in the workplace and learn exactly how to use a risk management methodology to control the chemical hazards at your workplace and get 100% safety compliant. Download 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 Adviser. He loves helping businesses reduce the risk that Dangerous Goods pose upon their employees, property and the environment through safe and compliant dangerous goods storage solutions.

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