Ensuring hazardous materials storage is at the forefront of an organisation’s thinking for instance, chemicals are stored safely, in the correct conditions, is of huge importance for organisations in Ireland and the UK. When storing chemicals we should take the same precautions as we would when working with them.
While we are all aware of the dangers surrounding working with hazardous materials, it is equally important to take the same precautions when storing them. Even chemicals that are generally considered ‘un-harmful’ have the potential to be hazardous when stored in the wrong conditions. Deadly in fact. Why risk a chemical spill, uncontrolled reaction, fire or endangering other employees.
We’re going to discuss best practice hazardous materials storage policies, a topic companies across the UK are faced with on a daily basis. It will provide practical guidance for employers and their employees on the safe storage of hazardous materials, assist you in ensuring you are meeting all of your legal obligations with regard to health and safety and ensure that operations run smoothly and the safety of workers and the community is consistently maintained.
Firstly, let’s look at what is classed as ‘Hazardous Materials’. Hazardous materials are classified as dangerous goods in liquid, solid or gas form that can potentially harm people, the environment, property or any other living organism.
Hazardous materials include all products that are radioactive, flammable, explosive, corrosive, oxidizing, asphyxiating, biohazardous, toxic, pathogenic, or allergenic.
The term also extends to the physical conditions of certain products such as compressed gasses or liquids, it also includes all goods containing such materials or chemicals.
What is safe storage of hazardous materials?
Are we all aware of what safe storage means?
At Chemstore we define Safe Storage of Hazardous Materials as follows:
Hazardous materials must be stored in an environment where all and any potential risks are minimised and avoided where at all possible. Dangerous or violent reactions, fire, potential personnel harm or any other negative event must be assessed in advance, a detailed risk assessment and crisis management plan, that has been practiced, should be ready to implement immediately in the event of an accident.
When storing hazardous materials such as chemicals, it is absolutely necessary to ensure the materials have been classified in the storage class specific to the hazard characteristics. Chemicals that have more than one hazardous property must be assigned to a storage class based on a ranking system relating to the chemicals involved. This ensures that chemicals with the same or similar hazardous dangers can be treated similarly with regard to necessary safety measures. For example, fire resistant laboratory safety cabinets.
Separate storage of hazardous materials refers to storing each hazardous product in different storage areas. The storage area is separate from other rooms by fire resistant walls and ceilings, or safety cabinets or possibly both. Separate storage may be required if a potential harmful reaction might occur should certain products mix.
Segregated storage means storing various similar hazardous substances in the same storage area. The products are separated from one another by gaps or barriers or in different non combustible safety cabinets. Segregated storage can only be used when certain conditions are met, for example the same extinguishing agent can be used for all products.
At Chemstore we assist companies across Ireland the UK in determining the safest and most economic hazardous materials storage solutions that ensure compliance with all Irish, UK and European health and safety standards. All of our laboratory safety cabinets and larger hazardous materials storage units are manufactured to EN 14470-1 and ISO 9001:2008 standards.
Conducting a valid and thorough risk assessment is a must for companies that store hazardous materials on site. Not only is this vital for the safety of staff and the wider community but it also ensures compliance with health and safety legislation.
What is risk management in the context of hazardous materials storage?
Risk management is a way of streamlining operations to ensure safe systems and operations for the handling and storage of hazardous materials on a daily basis. It also allows you to pre define potential risks and determine the efforts, actions and procedures that must be put in place in the event of a crisis.
There are four steps to ensure valuable risk management:
This includes reviewing all activities, processes, the physical plant, substances used, the working environment and any other factors that may affect safety. The key at this point is to review…..EVERYTHING.
Risk is not a certainty, it is a combination of the likelihood and harshness of any potential danger that the hazardous materials may give rise to. For this reason, you must assess all factors that could potentially contribute to the risk. When looking at hazardous materials storage, risk contributors might include the quantity of chemicals stored at any one time or the varying degrees of storage temperature requirements versus the number of chemicals requiring specific temperature storage.
If and where possible a risk can be eliminated, it should be. It would be very naive of us to say eliminate all potential risks…In the real world that’s not possible for a whole host of reasons like quality or cost or corporate culture. It’s just not possible to eliminate all risks whether you’re operating a two hundred and fifty thousand square foot manufacturing plant or a sweet shop – you can never avoid all potential risks…What we can however do is minimise the risk by properly identifying the risk, its source and any contributing factors. Having this information will allow you to formulate a crisis management plan and also reduce the risks where possible. Having all of this documented will allow you to better manage the day to day risk management requirements and also ensure that control measures are maintained.
Safety needs to be monitored and maintained at all times. Health and safety guidelines should be adhered to. Control measures will need to be reviewed regularly to ensure they are working and irritations made in the event that they are not. Supervision is the key to successful maintenance of safety standards. It will ensure workers and the wider community are more aware and therefore more likely to follow safety practices.
When looking at hazardous materials storage, the potential risks are endless. For this reason implementing, monitoring and regularly auditing is a must. From experience potential risks include:
If your monitoring and auditing highlights the same or similar issues more than once it would indicate that you need to review this aspect of your handling and storage system.
It’s important that you document all of your inspection and audit findings as this is essentially your record of your risk management activities, and in the event of a hazard this documentation will be vital.
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