Storage and Handling of Dangerous Goods

Dangerous goods are a significant Occupational health & Safety (‘OHS’) risk which can cause harm to persons, property and the environment. The storage and handling of dangerous goods are strictly regulated by the Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2022 (Vic) (‘regulations’). The storage and handling of dangerous goods is also required to be in compliance with any applicable Australian Standards. There are numerous standards which prescribe the storage and handling requirements for individual classes of dangerous goods. Companies which store and handle dangerous goods have extensive duties under the regulations. This article provides an overview of the duties and how companies can comply with some of their duties.

Duties

Under the regulations, companies that store or handle dangerous goods on their premises are referred to as, ‘occupiers’. Occupier’s can also have further duties as manufacturers or suppliers depending on the nature of their operations. The duties for occupiers are extensive and include: (Note this is not an exhaustive list)

  1. Register of Dangerous Goods
  2. Regulator Notification
  3. Placarding
  4. Hazard dentification
  5. Risk Control
  6. Design of new Premises, Plant, Processes
  7. Construction & Maintenance Work
  8. Protection from Impact
  9. Maintenance of Structures and Plant
  10. Spill Containment
  11. Separation & Segregation
  12. Ignition Sources
  13. Ventilation & Atmospheric Emissions
  14. Fire Protection Requirements
  15. Waste & Disposal
  16. First Aid
  17. Lighting
  18. Personal Protective Equipment
  19. Security
  20. Safety Data Sheets
  21. Incident Management
  22. Consultation
  23. Induction, Information, Training
  24. Visitors Risk Management
  25. Marking

Regulator Notification

Occupier’s have a duty to notify the regulator of the presence of dangerous goods on their site that exceeds the manifest quantity thresholds.[1] The thresholds are contained in Schedule 2 of the regulations and vary depending on the class of dangerous goods and their packing group.

Occupier’s should ensure they have systems in place to calculate the actual quantities of dangerous goods on site and notify the regulator where required.

Hazard Identification

Occupier’s have a duty to identify any hazards associated with the storage and handling of dangerous goods.[2] Occupier’s should implement a robust risk management system that can assist in the identification of hazards. Hazards relating to dangerous goods can be identified through a number of ways, which include:

  • Reviewing product Safety Data Sheets
  • Reviewing storage, handling, manufacturing and transport processes
  • Conducting safety inspections of storage and handling areas
  • Conducting task observations of the handling of dangerous goods
  • Speaking with persons involved in the storage and handling of dangerous goods
  • Investigating incidents including dangerous occurrences

Some common hazards associated with the storage and handling of dangerous goods may include:

  1. Broken pallets or protruding nails that may damage the containers resulting in a leak
  2. Damage to racking that may result in a collapse or leak
  3. Unsafe or hazardous plant operation that may damage containers resulting in a leak
  4. Improper manually handling practices that may result in breakages or spillages
  5. Products placed in incorrect locations
  6. Missing or insufficient spill kits that may not control the spill
  7. Insufficient lighting in storage and handling areas
  8. Poor ventilation in the storage and handling areas
  9. Ignition sources present in hazardous areas
  10. Incorrect or damaged labelling of containers

Regular inspections of the storage and handling areas is critical to identifying hazards. The frequency of inspections should be determined in consultation with the persons involved in dangerous goods and the nature of the risk. The inspections should be documented with details of any actions undertaken to rectify the hazard(s).

Risk Control

Occupier’s have a duty to ensure that any risk associated with the storage and handling of dangerous goods is eliminated or reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.[3]

Risk assessment’s are a critical tool that can assist in the identification and implementation of control measures to manage the risk(s). A risk assessment should be undertaken for the storage and handling of each class of dangerous goods. A risk assessment should also be undertaken for all processes and tasks involving dangerous goods.

A risk assessment for the storage and handling of dangerous goods may include the following risks:

  1. Risk of exposure to persons through skin contact or inhalation of product
  2. Risk of ingestion of product through poor hygiene practices
  3. Risk of fire due to nearby ignition sources, poor ventilation, or incompatible products
  4. Risk of slips/trips/falls from liquid spills
  5. Risk of musculoskeletal disorders from manual handling of products
  6. Risk of plant and pedestrian collisions from improper storage practices

Persons involved in the dangerous goods should be consulted when undertaking the risk assessment. A risk assessment should also be undertaken before any alteration is made to a process or system of work that is likely to result in changes to risks associated with the storage and handling of dangerous goods.

A risk assessment should also be undertaken upon an incident occurring or if the risk control measures do not adequately control the risks. Risk assessments should be regularly reviewed to ensure the risks are adequately controlled.

Spill Containment

Occupier’s have a duty to ensure that where dangerous goods are stored or handled, provision is made for spill containment.[4]

Occupier’s also have a duty to ensure that spill response equipment is kept on the premises and accessible at all times to persons on the premises.[5]

Bunding is a common method of spill containment which aims to contain the spill within the confines of the bund. Whether a bund is required is dependent on the requirements of the applicable Australian Standard for the storage and handling requirements for that class of dangerous goods.

Occupier’s should ensure bunding is implemented in storage and handling areas where required and the bund is adequate for the quantity of dangerous goods stored and or handled.

The minimum volume of containment of bunds is dependent on the class of dangerous goods, the packing group, their quantity and whether the dangerous goods are in packaged or in bulk. Occupier’s should conduct a bund safety assessment to assess whether the bund can safely contain the volume of dangerous goods stored in the area.  The bund safety assessment should also assess the structural integrity of the bund to identify any defects or potential leaks.

Occupier’s should implement spill kits to assist with spill response. The spill kits should contain:

  • Absorbent material to soak up liquid spills
  • Mop, bucket, supply of water
  • Broom, brush, dustpan
  • Safety barrier or other equipment to secure site
  • Personal Protective Equipment – Gloves, safety goggles, overalls
  • Warning signage

The contents of the spill kits should be regularly inspected with documented records maintained of the inspections.

Occupier’s should also ensure there are spill response procedures established and implemented to manage large spills. The spill response procedures should ensure stormwater drainage or ground contamination is prevented during spills. The spill response procedures should include processes and locations for the storage and disposal of the waste.

Occupier’s should also ensure persons involved with dangerous goods are trained in spill response procedures.

Incident Management

Occupier’s have a duty to respond to incidents involving dangerous goods and ensuring immediate action is taken to control the risk.[6] Occupier’s also have a duty to ensure that incidents involving dangerous goods are investigated, the cause of the incident determined, and record of the investigation is made and kept for at least 5 years.[7]

Occupier’s have a duty to notify the regulator of an incident involving an uncontrolled escape, spillage or leakage of a dangerous goods.[8]

Occupier’s should implement a robust incident management procedure which prescribes the methodology for responding to, managing and investigating incidents. The procedure should include the following information:

  • The procedure for notifying the regulator for notifiable incidents
  • The actions to be undertaken once an incident occurs
  • The information to be recorded
  • The procedure for completing an investigation
  • The procedure for record keeping
  • The procedure for reviewing risk control measures

Training in the procedure should be provided to relevant persons at the workplace to ensure the procedure can be successfully implemented.

Consultation

Occupier’s are required to consult with persons engaged to work at the premises whose health or safety is likely to be affected by the dangerous goods.[9] The consultation requirements apply to employees as well as contractors. Occupier’s are required to consult the affected persons on the following matters:

  • Hazard identification and risk control of the dangerous goods
  • Any proposed alterations to structures, plant, processes or systems of work that are likely to increase the risk

Occupier’s who are employers must also comply with their consultation obligations under the Occupational Health & Safety Act (Vic) 2004.[10]

Consultation can occur through the OHS committee or meetings held with the affected persons. Occupiers’ should document the consultation for evidence.

Induction, Information, Training & Supervision

Occupier’s are required to provide induction, information, training and supervision to a person involved with the storage and handling of dangerous goods.[11] This is required to be in a language or manner appropriate to the person and relevant to the tasks.

Occupier’s should implement an extensive induction and training program for dangerous goods for employees, contractors and other persons involved in dangerous goods. The following information is required to be communicated to persons involved in dangerous goods:[12]

  1. Nature of the hazards and properties of the dangerous goods and processes used for the identification and control of the risks associated with the worker’s tasks
  2. Measures for the control of those risks
  3. The systems of work and the conduct of persons that may affect safe storage and handling of dangerous goods
  4. Details of the emergency plan including procedures and equipment that may be required
  5. Proper use and fitting of personal protective equipment

Occupier’s are also required to protect the health and safety of visitors to the workplace. Visitors are required to be provided with information, safety instructions, and supervision that is sufficient to ensure that any risk to the visitor is reduced as far as is reasonably practicable.[13]

Occupier’s should ensure an induction program is implemented for visitors which communicates the following information: (This is not an exhaustive list)

  • Nature of the hazards and properties of the dangerous goods
  • Control measures to manage the risks
  • The location of dangerous goods on site
  • Details of emergency response procedures and equipment
  • Proper use and fitting of personal protective equipment required to visit area

Visitors to dangerous goods storage and handling areas should be accompanied by an authorised representative of the occupier.

Conclusion

The duties in relation to storage and handling of dangerous goods are extensive. Occupier’s should implement a robust dangerous goods management system which ensures the risks arising from dangerous goods are adequately controlled and the storage and handling of dangerous goods is in compliance to the legal requirements.

Occupier’s should conduct regular audits of their premises and operations to identify any deficiencies to ensure continuous improvement.

 


[1] Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2022 (Vic)  section 64.

[2] ibid section 26.

[3] ibid section 27.

[4] ibid section 40.

[5] ibid section 50.

[6] Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2022 (Vic) section 60.

[7] ibid section 61.

[8] Occupational Health & Safety Act 2004 (Vic) section 38.

[9] Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2022 (Vic) section 24.

[10] Occupational Health & Safety Act 2004 (Vic) section 35.

[11] ibid section 25.

[12] ibid section 25(2).

[13] Ibid section 30.