Safety warning over dangerous goods and COVID-19 shutdowns

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Thursday, 20 August, 2020 - 09:00
Policy & legislation
National News

WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert about the importance of having a plan to manage the risks of dangerous goods when temporarily shutting down or reducing the extent of operations due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Occupiers of premises that store or handle dangerous goods may need to temporarily shut down or significantly restrict their operations as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including in response to Chief Health Officer Directions.

When ceasing or significantly restricting operations, and when resuming normal operations, business owners and managers must continue to ensure the safe storage and handling of dangerous goods.

The safety alert said that significant risks can arise from the presence of dangerous goods at premises.

Risks associated with dangerous goods that need to be managed when temporarily ceasing or significantly restricting operations include:

  • fires and explosions associated with flammable gas (LP Gas) systems, for example gas fired heaters

  • fires, explosions and leakages associated with flammable liquids, for example petrol, kerosene, turpentine, flammable paints

  • exposure to corrosive material, for example acids, alkalis

  • materials with the potential to degrade or which are incompatible with other materials

  • accumulation of non-flammable non-toxic gases that are asphyxiant, for example carbon dioxide, nitrogen

  • the presence of asbestos or asbestos-containing materials

  • ‘benign’ materials that, when degraded or contaminated, become hazardous, for example batteries, garden or agricultural chemicals, ammonium nitrate.

“Occupiers must identify the hazards related to dangerous goods that are present at their workplace or premises, assess the risks, and implement risk controls,” the alert said.

“The Code of practice for the storage and handling of dangerous goods provides practical guidance on how to comply with obligations for the safe storage and handling of dangerous goods.”