Warehouse storage for hazardous goods

 Can your warehouse provider cope with Hazardous Storage?

Storing hazardous goods

Hazardous materials, whether in a raw state or finished goods, are capable of producing a wide range of harmful physical effects such as a fire, sudden release of pressure, explosion or serious health issues including burns, convulsions, organ damage or cancer.

Hazardous substances include:

  • Substances used directly in work activities (e.g. adhesives, battery acid, pest control, paints, cleaning agents)
  • Substances generated during work activities (e.g. fumes from industrial trucks or spilled products)
  • Naturally occurring substances (e.g. dust in certain concentrations)
  • Biological agents such as bacteria and other microorganisms.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) ensures that warehouse providers offering hazardous storage adequately risk assess the goods they are responsible for.

When choosing a hazardous storage solution, it is essential that you find someone who is experienced in dealing with your particular type of hazardous goods and that they are fully trained and aware of the latest legislation’s surrounding dealing with spills and incidents.

Choosing the right hazardous warehouse storage solution

Different substances create very different risks and it is important that the standards adopted at the warehouse are based on an understanding of the physical and chemical properties of the substances concerned and the potential reactions between substances.

Other important factors are the overall quantities of the substances to be stored and the maximum size of individual packages.

The incidents that cause the greatest concern are generally those that involve fire. Such fires expose employees, the emergency services, and members of the public to the threat of heat, harmful smoke and fumes, flying missiles etc. Fires can also cause the substances to be spread over a wider area through smoke and water used to fight the fire, thereby being harmful to the environment.

Storage of organic peroxides

The principal storage recommendations for organic peroxides are that it is kept in its original container, held within predetermined temperature limits and kept in dedicated storage areas. It should not come into contact with other materials such as acids, alkalis, amines, accelerators, combustible materials, metals or reducing agents.

Storage of sodium chloride and other strong oxidants

Sodium chloride should be stored in a secure area away from sources of ignition and flammable materials. It should be kept away from food, drink and animal foodstuffs but can be stored with other strong oxidants.

Storage of ammonium nitrate

Ammonium nitrate should normally be stored in single storey, well-ventilated buildings which are constructed from materials that will not burn such as concrete, bricks or steel. If the warehouse is located near to a densely populated area, it may be better to store the ammonium nitrate outside, provided it is in a secure area away from combustible materials.

Storage of LPG

Wherever possible, LPG should be stored in the open air but where this is not practical, the quantities stored should be restricted. LPG should not be stored in the vicinity of cylinders containing other gases or hazardous substance.

Storage of flammable liquids

Flammable liquids should be stored in a cool, dry place away from sources of ignition and heat, and in securely closed containers specifically designed for the purpose. It is preferable for the store to be in the open air, but in all cases adequate ventilation at high and low level will be needed to disperse any vapours from leaking containers.

Choosing the right warehouse for your hazardous goods

Your stock is the most important aspect of your business; you need it in order to operate. Therefore, it is highly important that your hazardous stock is stored in a warehouse that suits your company’s needs. Some points to consider are:

  • The warehouse provider understands your hazardous storage needs

It is important that the warehouse provider you choose understands the dangers associated with storing your materials and the precautions they must take to safely store them. Ask to see evidence of how they check new goods in to the warehouse, how they identify the different materials in their warehouse and how they deal with incidents.

  • Staff are well-trained in handling your hazardous materials

All employees should have basic training in health and safety. All warehouse workers should have adequate training in the hazards associated with their work and within the warehouse, along with the precautions to take.

  • Risk management procedures are in place

Employers have to protect employees and other people who may be exposed to hazardous substances in the workplace. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations

2002 (COSHH) require employers to control exposure to hazardous substances to prevent ill health. Effects from hazardous substances can range from mild eye irritation to chronic lung disease or, on occasion, death.

COSHH Regulations require employers to risk assess the storage of all hazardous materials, taking into account:

  • Dealing with leaks
  • Accidental spillages
  • Puncture of packages or containers e.g. by the forks of a lift truck.

Risk assessments must also consider employees involved in cleaning and maintenance of the warehouse and certain groups of people who could suffer more from exposure than others e.g. pregnant women or individuals with a suppressed immune system

  • Staff know how to manage spillages

When choosing a warehouse provider, you should ensure they have a safe system in place to deal with spillages. When dealing with spillages, all non-essential or untrained staff should be evacuated from the danger area. Liquid and solid spillages will need to be dealt with differently:

Liquid spillages

Barrier materials such as sand bags or proprietary absorbent pads/socks/granules should be provided by the warehouse operator. The chosen absorbent should not adversely react with the substance to be absorbed.

Solid spillages

Spillages of dangerous substances in a fine dusty form should not be cleared up by dry brushing. Vacuum cleaners should be used in preference, or damp sweeping, and for toxic materials, a vacuum cleaner conforming to type H of BS 5415 should be used.

Choosing the perfect warehouse premises for your hazardous storage needs will be influenced by a range of factors, from cost and location to the warehouse’s experience of dealing with your materials and their staff competence. It is important that you give thought to all of these factors because selecting the right premises will help your business to operate efficiently.

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