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Ensuring your workers are trained to store and handle Dangerous Goods

Today’s blog is a Guest Post from Walter Ingles, a Dangerous Goods compliance specialist from STOREMASTA. Walter shares his insights for implementing a training program that ensures all workers, contractors, and site visitors understand the chemical hazards present on the job site and know how to store and handle Dangerous Goods without getting injured.

Dangerous Goods are chemicals and hazardous substances that are capable of causing immediate death or injury to a person — or immediate damage and destruction to property. Dangerous Goods include explosives (TNT, nitroglycerin), flammable liquids (petrol, toluene), compressed gases (LPG, acetylene), corrosives (sulphuric acid, caustic soda), and toxic substances (formaldehyde, hydrogen sulfide).

Here at STOREMASTA we’ve been manufacturing and supplying Dangerous Goods storage equipment to business all over Australia for nearly 30 years — and today we’d like to share one key thing we have learned in all this time. Without proper training, a high-tech safety cabinet, or decanting system won’t adequately protect your workers. Not only that, unless your workers know how to load, maintain and care for an DG storage cabinet — it will greatly reduce the lift of the unit.

Understanding chemical hazards

The first part of your training program should cover the chemical hazards workers, contractors, customers and visitors are likely to encounter every day on the job site. This type of training is often delivered during a site induction and many organisations have online video modules to help workers fully understand the risks to their health and safety.

On the job site this type of training may include a walk-around, so workers better understand the physical location of chemical storage and handling areas, and are clear about which areas are out-of-bounds. We suggest as a minimum:

  • Chemical types, quantities, and storage locations — familiarity with the different types of chemicals onsite (eg, liquid paints and solvents, gases in cylinders, dusts and powders, fuel tanks).
  • Health hazards — what happens to a human if the chemical is inhaled, swallowed, ingested, or splashed onto the skin and eyes.
  • Environmental hazards — how the chemicals could impact vegetation, pastoral lands, groundwater, native animals and aquatic life.
  • Physical hazards — how different chemicals could burn, explode, or react violently with another substance. Pay close attention to potential ignition sources.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) — essential PPE that must be worn and wear to find it.
  • Site rules — restricted areas and banned items (eg, matches, lighters, gadgets) and the reason for the rules.

Safe chemical handling

Workers and contractors who are physically handling chemicals need to know correct manual handling procedures to prevent musculoskeletal injuries as well as chemical exposure incidents. Dropping a box of flammable solvents has serious implications. As a minimum we suggest:

  • Decanting — safe pouring, how to correctly use decanting equipment, correct labelling of containers.
  • Safe lifting — correct posture and bending, using mechanical aids, forklifts, gas bottle trolleys, drum dolly’s and caddies.
  • Personal Protective Equipment — specialised training on how to fit and use PPE safely while handling chemicals.

Proper chemical storage

All workers or contractors who have authorised access to the chemical stores need proper training. This includes:

  • Loading cabinets — keeping cabinets level, understanding cabinet capacities, loading without jamming the doors or damaging the shelving, keeping the spill compound free.
  • Leaks and spills — isolating leaking containers, clearing a cabinet’s spill sump, disposing of waste chemicals.
  • Register of Hazardous Chemicals — keeping the Register up-to-date and located within easy reach of chemical stores.
  • Inspections and integrity checks — regularly inspecting safety cabinets, drums, IBCs, tanks, and outdoors stores for signs of corrosion, structural damage, or deterioration.

Consistent housekeeping

Good housekeeping practices require more than a policy or operating procedure. Workers and contractors need ongoing training and supervision to ensure that housekeeping practices are understood and followed.

As a minimum include:

  • Putting chemical containers into the safety cabinet immediately after use.
  • Never mixing hazard classes in the same cabinet (eg, only Class 3 Flammable Liquids in the flammable liquids cabinet).
  • Keeping ignition sources at least 3 metres from chemical stores.
  • Restricting maintenance work around chemical stores — eg, preventing workers and contractors from carrying out hot work or bringing tools that may produce a spark within 5 metres of a flammable liquid’s cabinet.
  • Cleaning and maintaining PPE.
  • Minimising combustible materials and vegetation.
  • Safely disposing of obsolete or out-of-date chemicals.

Emergency responses

Responding to a chemical emergency should be included in your Emergency Plan, and workers will require regular updates and drills. As a minimum include how they would respond to:

  • Chemical spills.
  • Fires and explosions.
  • Chemical reactions.
  • Burns to skin and eyes (using emergency showers and eyewash).
  • Inhalation and swallowing emergencies.

Next steps

Training site personnel in chemical awareness, handling and Dangerous Goods safety is an ongoing process and can be achieved through a combination of in-house training (inductions, job specific training, emergency drills) and formal training with a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) like Alert Force. Always carry out a risk assessment on your Dangerous Goods stores before purchasing chemical storage equipment and seek the advice of Dangerous Goods specialists like STOREMASTA when developing your in-house training program.

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