ABC Chemicals: Avoiding Workplace Chemical Hazards

Categories: HealthSafetyWorkplace

After reading the scenario about ABC Chemicals it was obvious that there were several apparent hazards and risks that I identified which needed to be assessed and either eliminated or controlled. These can be achieved using different Legislative measures and Codes Of Practice(COP) which is relevant to their Industry. By Looking further into the chemicals that ABC handle we can assess the presentable hazards Solvent: most solvents are either flammable or highly flammable, this is dependent on their volatility. When a mixture of vapour and air combine there is a possibility of an explosion.

The vapours from solvent is denser that air, it sinks to the bottom of the container. Vapours can still be found in empty containers and pose threat of possible fire, hence empty containers should be stored open and upside down.

There are many potential health risks caused by solvent including toxicity to the nervous system, liver and kidney damage, respiratory issues to name a few. It burns with an invisible flame making it harder to extinguish.

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Corrosives – corrosives have the ability to destroy other substances when in contact. It causes chemical burn when in contact. PPE should be worn including Gloves, Safety Goggles, Protective Apron, Safety Shoes, and a Face Guard. Workers should always consult a SDS relating to the corrosive substance prior to use.

Corrosive substances and mixtures [class 8 dangerous goods] can be either alkaline or acidic and these two categories are incompatible. Risks associated with storage and handling of corrosive substances and mixtures can be eliminated or minimised by observing the guidance on Worksafe Australia “National Code of Practice for the Storage and Handling of Workplace Dangerous Goods” Eyewash and safety showers should be readily accessible where corrosives are handled or transferred.

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Acid – acid comes in as a water treatment chemical. It should not be stored with detergents or solutions. Acids should never be stored with alkaline chemicals due to the potential for harmful reactions. Some reactions of acids and alkaline chemicals can be highly exothermic and rapidly generate large amounts of gas, causing an explosion risk. Chemicals such as acids can cause respiratory illnesses, cancers or dermatitis. WHS Regulation 2011

(357 containing and managing spills)
(359 Fire control)
(360-362 Emergency Equipment, Emergency Plans, Safety Equipment) (363-control of risks from storage or handling systems & regulation) (331 – SDS’s)
(60- managing risks to health and safety) manual handling

The WHS Act provides a framework to protect the Health, safety and welfare of all workers at work and that of people who may be affected by the work carried out. The WHS Act aims to *Protect the health and safety of workers and other people by eliminating or minimising risks arising from work or workplaces *Ensure fair and effective representation, consultation and cooperation to address and resolve any health and safety issues in the workplace *Encourage employer organisations and workers Unions to take a constructive role in improving work health and safety practices *Assisting businesses and workers to achieve a healthier and safer working environment *Promote information, education and training on work health and safety *Provide effective compliance and enforcement measures, and *Deliver continuous improvement and progressively higher standards of work health

Worksafe Australia has devised the National Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations. A new system of Chemical Classification and Hazard communication on Labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS’s) based on globally Harmonised system of Classification and labelling of chemicals (GHS) will come into affect. There will be a five (5) year transitional period for moving to the new GHS based system, this will allow the two different systems to be used together .

After 31 December 2016, (the end of the 5 year period) all workplace chemicals must be classified using the GHS system, Labels and safety data sheets (SDS) must also be updated.. The WHS Regulations include duties for a Person conducting or Undertaking a business to manage any risk to Health and safety that can be caused from the Handling, Storing and Generating of Hazardous chemicals in the workplace. These Duties include tasks such as, but not limited to:

  • The correct labelling of Containers
  • Displaying Safety Signs
  • Maintaining a Register And Manifest (if relevant) Of the hazardous Chemicals and providing Notifications to the Regulator of the Manifest Quantities
  • Ensuring that exposure standards are not exceeded.
  • The provision of Training, information, instruction and supervision to all employees
  • Identifying risk of physical/chemical reaction of hazardous chemicals and to ensure the stability of these chemicals
  • Provision of spill containment system for hazardous chemicals if needed
  • Obtaining up to date Safety Data Sheets (SDS) from the manufacturer, importer, supplier of that chemical.
  • Controlling ignition sources and accumulation of flammable and combustible substances.
  • Provision and availability of fire protection, fire fighting equipment and emergency/safety equipment.
  • Preparing an emergency plan if the amount of a hazardous class chemical exceeds the manifest quantity for the chemical *Ensure the stability & support containers for bulk hazardous chemicals including Pipe-work and any attachments.
  • De-commisioning of underground storage and handling system
  • Notifying the regulator as soon as possible of any abandoned tanks More information regarding Hazards and risks associated with the use, generating, storing and handling of a hazardous chemical can be obtained from the following resources -incident reports

-Australian Code for “Transport of Dangerous Good by Road & Rail”
-National Industrial Chemical Substances Information System (NICNAS)
- The Regulatory Authorities
-WHS Consultant
-Trade unions
-Employer Associations
-By Searching the internet, such as Safework Australia, the Australian Government webpages as well as many other sites relevant to your industry.


  • When spillage occurred, it states that it was cleaned up with a rag then dumped into a general waste dumpster which was emptied on a weekly basis. The disposal of these rags in the general dumpster poses a major risk of cross contamination with other rags that have had been used with other chemical/substances, which could lead to a toxic/hazardous situation, the production of toxic gases and the potential of a fire hazard. There is also no mention of any PPE being used during the handling of the chemicals either
  •  Chemical storage: there are several different types of chemicals stored at the facility, there is a risk if stored together that they can cause either a chemical or physical risk,
  • Another hazard I noted was that ABC chemical’s building only had a limited amount of emergency equipment, with the amount of employees working for ABC this definitely causes a hazard, there obviously is not enough equipment available to accommodate more than a handful of workers.

The company could end up in legal strife for not supplying the correct amount of Emergency Equipment as set out in the WHS Regulation 2011

Manual Handling Hazard – the drums are 205 Ltrs, they are then decanted into containers approximately 30 ltrs/Kilo ,there is no mention of appropriate equipment to move these containers.

The Storing the empty drums in the rear of the yard against a cyclone fence, these drums are sitting for a whole month before being removed.

Even though these drums are presumably empty, drums that have had solvent in them, unless stored open and upside down pose a major risk of explosion causing fire, with an un-kept paddock directly behind the fence where these drums are stored there is the potential for the fire to spread causing damage and risk to the public also. The lack of employee training in relation to Safe Handling Of Chemicals (hazardous substances) or how to deal with Emergencies. . No employee’s have be appointed as safety officers (section 19 of the Act), if there was an incident there would be no clear direction to follow..

Location: There is risk to not only to employees of ABC there is also risk to all at the childcare centre, the nursing home, as well as the general public with the building being located on a busy street which is prone to accidents. Lack of Emergency plan displayed. No emergency plan displayed to direct people when there is an incident These risks can be assessed by several means such as SDS (Safety Data Sheets), independent Audit, Employee participation, hazard studies.

Level of risk and Control

Small chemical spills:- (dependent on the severity)- first aid injury is likely due to chemical burn(dependent on skin sensitivity, injury could range from minor-major) High Risk- Have a separate area for decanting each separate chemical. Provide spill containment system, Provide appropriate training in the control of spills, Develop procedure for the control of spills Provide appropriate PPE for each specific chemical

Disposal of Chemical Rags: minor – fatal injuries is very likely from this dangerous practice which is exposing the risk to the disposal company staff and driver Extreme risk- Notify Supervisor/ HSR- Provide spill containment system, Provide controlled waste system, - have a separate waste area for specific chemicals. Set up a controlled collection of waste

Staff Lacking Training in handling chemicals – minor – fatality possible Extreme risk-Immediate action required, notify supervisor/HSR. | Adopt a training plan to up skill the workforce in line with legislative requirements. Ensure the training covers areas such as

  • How to understand SDS Data Sheets
  •  Personal Safety
  •  Emergency procedures
  • Induction training & Ongoing training

Limited Emergency Equipment – major injury is very likely through to fatality Extreme risk- immediate action required, notify supervisor/HSR. Undertake risk assessment with workers and emergency services to determine all main risks. Review SDS to identify risks Implement additional emergency equipment as required, an example of such equipment could be : * Spill containment systems * Emergency showers and eye wash stations * Monitors and alarms *Fire fighting equipment

Storage of chemical drums – Major- fatality

Extreme risk- separation of the different chemicals in storage areas to minimise the risk of interaction. Ensure the clear displaying of SDS information for each of chemicals

Storage of empty chemical drums- Major – Fatality
Extreme Risk- Organise that the collection of empty drums are done more frequently (eg: Weekly) Ensure Solvent drums are turned upside down with lid open to reduce risk of gas build up. Ensure each chemicals drums are stored separate to each other to minimise interaction

Lack of emergency Plan displayed- Minor- Fatality

Extreme risk- consultation within the workplace, and surrounding Businesses. Develop a emergency plan including things such as - evacuation procedures – Notification Procedures ( advising emergency services – medical treatment - Communication procedures between co-ordinater of the emergency response and everyone at the workplace. The plan is to be explained to all existing staff, and included in inductions for future staff. The plan needs to be displayed in a location that is accessible to all staff of the workplace. The plan will be reviewed at acceptable intervals no more than 5yrs to ensure its effectiveness or when there is a change warranting an update.

Manual Handling- Minor- Major There is no mention of Lifting devices meaning injury is then Extreme Risk. Ensure adequate training of workers in regard to proper Manual handling. Ensure there is appropriate lifting devices for employees to use to minimise the risk of injury

Location- Minor – Fatality. Due to proximity to day-care and nursing home and the fact it is on a busy rd which is prone to accidents there is a Extreme risk- the installation of safety barriers around ABC Chemicals to minimise the risk of damage caused by motor vehicle accident, set up exclusion zone for storage of any chemicals. Consultation with the aged care facility and the surrounding Businesses regarding ABC’s emergency Plan in case of incident

Risk Controls

  1. Eliminate a hazard, removing the hazard totally, Eg repairing damaged equipment immediately. If this is not reasonably practicable the next step is to minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practicable by doing one or more of the following:
  2. Substituting (wholly or partly) the hazard creating the risk with something that has lesser risk, Eg instead of using a lead based product, use a non lead based one
  3. Engineering controls/. Isolation- the hazard from any person exposed to it, with use of Barriers etc, lifting devices for manual handling
  4. Administrative controls. Training, provide manuals regarding H&S in the workplace,redesigning the job task. If the risk is still present, the remaining risk must be minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable,
  5. PPE. such as Gloves, Safety Goggles etc A combination of controls should be used if a single control is not sufficient for the purpose. PPE is a last resort because it protects the person against the hazard but it does not remove the hazard
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
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ABC Chemicals: Avoiding Workplace Chemical Hazards. (2016, Sep 08). Retrieved from

ABC Chemicals: Avoiding Workplace Chemical Hazards essay
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