Safe Work Australia recently released a new information sheet for storing swimming pool chemicals for small and medium businesses which do not have major chemical stores/expertise in managing the risks of chemical storage.
Even when not in use, chemicals can still pose a risk, according to the information sheet.
Flammable and oxidising chemicals may cause or contribute to a fire, corrosive chemicals can injure people and damage property and structures they come into contact with, while toxic chemicals can poison people who are exposed to them.
Compressed gases can also suffocate or poison workers if they leak, and some chemicals are not compatible with one another.
When incompatible chemicals mix, the information sheet said they may ignite or explode; release toxic, flammable or corrosive gases, or corrode chemical containers, causing them to leak.
As such, it is important to identify which chemicals are incompatible and ensure that hazardous chemicals are stored safely in a way that minimises the chance of any incidents and reactions, and reduces the chance that stored chemicals will contribute to or worsen an incident.
The information sheet suggested managing the risks associated with storing hazardous chemicals by following a systematic process to:
Identify hazards – find out what could cause harm.
Assess risks, if necessary – understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening. This step may not be necessary if you are dealing with a known risk with known controls.
Eliminate risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
Control risks – if it is not practical to eliminate the risk, implement control measures in accordance with the hierarchy of control measures (as described in section 4.1).
Review and maintain control measures to ensure they are working as planned.