So you’ve got a shipment of hazardous materials scheduled for the coming day, and you have no clue what you need to do safety-wise to ensure that you’re meeting your legal requirements and keeping everybody safe.
Where should you keep them when they aren’t in use?
What do you do if there’s a spill?
And most importantly, what do you need to do to ensure that you’re storing them safely?
As we’re sure you’re aware, there are 9 classes of dangerous substances under hazchem, with several subcategories.
Each of these different categories has their own storage requirements that you’ll need to accommodate – you can’t just pop them into a chained-off area and call it a day.
And as a first-timer, it’s crucial that you know what you need to do!
Class 1: explosives
Easily recognisable by the distinctive red hazchem class diamond, explosives are dangerous, with a capital D.
This category includes a range of substances, including both primary (can be detonated by an external source) or secondary (requires a detonator) explosives:
- Dynamite and TNT
- Ammonium nitrate
- Fireworks and gunpowder
This entire category is pretty self-explanatory – and so are the measures you need to take to safely store them!
How to store explosives
In order to work with – or store – explosives in Australia, it’s imperative that you first obtain your explosives license.
It’s also important that you get the right permit as well – while an explosives storage license allows you to store small amounts of explosives without a license, larger quantities will require you to get the appropriate paperwork first.
Once that’s done, all explosives will need to be stored in accordance with Australian Standard AS 2187.1 – that means:
- Storing explosives in a separate, dedicated building
- Following fencing requirements set out by AS 2187.1
- Keeping them as far from entrances and entry points as possible
- Using closed containers
- Storing detonators separately
- Segregating different types of explosives
- Eliminating potential detonation risks
Class 2: gases
Hazchem recognises 3 specific subcategories of gas:
- Flammable gases
- Non-flammable compressed gas
- Poisonous gas
Each presents its own unique hazards, which is why each is recognised with its own hazchem subclass.
How to store gases
While the exact procedure will vary depending on what type of gas you’re dealing with – as a general rule however, there are a couple of general rules:
- Store canisters upright and far away from combustible materials
- Ensure cylinders are secure to prevent knocking or falling
- Choose a well-ventilated storage area (mechanical ventilation systems may be needed)
- Use open-air storage where possible
- Avoid storing below ground-level
- Choose a cool area away from heat sources
These are just some general rules to follow regardless of what type of gas you need to store – for specific requirements unique to the substances you work with, be sure to consult your safety data sheet (SDS) for more details.
Class 3: flammable liquids
While petrol is the first thing that comes to mind, this hazchem class also includes a range of other substances such as:
In addition to the liquid itself, in many cases, flammable liquids can emit fumes that themselves can pose a fire hazard.
This hazchem class accounts for the vast majority of hazardous materials in Australia – as such, there’s a high chance you will have to deal with them at some point of your career.
And that’s why it’s so important that you know how to store them safely!
How to store petrol and flammable liquids
The safest way to store flammable liquids is with a chemical storage cabinet, an airtight cupboard that that’s constructed in accordance with AS1940 – in addition to spill containment, they also:
- Help ventilate fumes
- Stop leaks from making it into the workplace
- Provide insulation
- Secure flammable liquids
- Provide protection against ignition sources
In addition to these, it’s also important that you use sealed containers for everything, and carefully arrange them to eliminate the risk of them toppling or falling.
Class 4: flammable solids
Direct contact with flame isn’t the only thing that can cause these substances to ignite – some solids can even ignite when they come into contact with oxygen, or even water in some cases!
Each of these are recognised with their own subclass, and each has different storage requirements…
How to store flammable solids
Subclass 4.1 includes things like matches, coal, charcoal and other such substances. As such, the focus is on separating these solids from potential fire sources as much as possible.
The other two subclasses however are more difficult to work with.
The next subclass is 4.2, or spontaneously combustible solids, and include phosphorous, potassium and sodium sulfide or barium. And finally, there’s subclass 4.3, dangerous when wet.
What’s the deal with these subclasses? They become flammable when exposed to oxygen and moisture respectively!
This makes storing them difficult – however, it isn’t impossible.
As with above, the best way to store these is with dedicated storage cabinets that help protect the substances from oxygen and moisture.
And of course, don’t forget to make sure you use airtight storage containers for each for extra protection!
Class 5: oxidising agents
While these substances aren’t flammable themselves, they can make things much worse by increasing the fire risk and fuelling fires. Like the name suggests, these substances create oxygen, and as we all know, fire needs oxygen to spread.
As such, it’s important that these oxidising agents are properly stored, and that proper measures are taken to ensure that both oxidising agents and organic peroxides are properly stored to reduce fire risk.
How to store oxidising agents
Fire needs 3 things to spread:
- An oxidising agent (usually air)
- Fuel (wood, paper, etc.)
- Heat to maintain and spread
In order to prevent fires, it’s important that you remove at least one item from the equation. And since we’re talking about oxidising agents here, that means keeping them far away from potentially flammable materials!
Distance and ventilation are the name of the game when it comes to oxidising agents – it’s important that such substances are kept far away from any flammable materials, and that the oxygen that these substances give off is ventilated, thus reducing the risk.
Physical distance is one part of this equation – another is implementing physical separation.
Once again, storage cabinets are a great choice – storage cabinets for oxidising agents are airtight, stopping oxygen from leaking out and increasing your fire risk.
In addition to stopping air from getting out, many can also be hooked up to ventilation systems to redirect the extra oxygen away from other substances and out of your workplace.
Class 6: poisonous and infectious substances
These substances can pose a major health hazard if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Therefore, it’s important that you take great care when storing poisonous and infectious materials!
As the last couple of months have no doubt demonstrated, it’s very easy to accidentally expose yourself to something that’s infectious or poisonous without even realising it.
That means that you’ll need to take extra measures when storing them…
How to store poisonous and infectious substances
It’ll all depend on the substance itself, the details of which will be listed in your safety data sheet (SDS).
As a general rule however, these substances should be stored away from heat, sunlight and potential ignition sources.
It’s also important that you keep PPE, respirators and emergency showers and sinks nearby, just in case – sure, these don’t technically have anything to do with storage, but it’s good practice.
Another good practice is to instal dedicated storage cabinets that comply with AS4452 – you may also need one custom-made depending on the substances you’re dealing with.
Class 8: corrosive material
Acid. Caustic soda. Ammonium hydroxide. Whether it’s highly concentrated, diluted or only somewhat corrosive, it’s important that this particular class of hazardous substance is stored properly.
With the potential to seriously harm people as well as ensure that your equipment and facilities, it’s crucial that corrosives are stored properly – and that means a number of special considerations…
How to store corrosive material
It isn’t just the corrosiveness that can be a danger – in many cases, corrosives also emit fumes that can be harmful to human health.
As such, when storing corrosive materials, it’s important that you account for ventilation as well.
Any area where you store corrosive material needs to have good ventilation, as well as be able to safely contain any spills should the worst happen. As such, storage areas for corrosives should be closed-off and self-contained to minimise the risk of if spreading.
Drains can also be a big help, assuming that it doesn’t lead into the environment or the communal sewer system.
Storing hazardous substances properly starts with hazchem signs
Get all the workplace safety signs you need with Signsmart
While the exact details vary depending on which hazchem class you’re dealing with (as well as the exact substances in question), there’s one thing that each of these classes share.
No matter what you’re storing, it’s crucial that you have the right signs to warn everyone of what they’re dealing with.
While it may not be as flashy as a fence or chemical storage cabinet, there’s no denying that signs are an important part of chemical safety.
Not only that, but they’re also a legal requirement too!
In addition to hazchem signs and dangerous goods labels, our online sign shop stocks a wide variety of other workplace safety signs, and even makes custom safety signs for all the hazards that you can’t find a template for.
With fast nation-wide delivery, we’re able to get you the signs you need when you need them – and not a minute too soon!
Got something custom in mind? Get in touch with us! Call (03) 9687 3050 or send us a message, and we’ll be in touch with you immediately. You can also visit us for custom safety signs in Australia: pop into our headquarters at 122 Whitehall Street, Footscray, VIC 3011, if you prefer a more hands-on approach.