From time to time, we all have to take certain precautions at work to ensure our health and safety. Whether it’s knowing how to work at a height, or preventing danger to customers, it’s important that staff are well trained and have the right equipment. If your company use dangerous goods or hazardous chemicals, these can be dangerous to both staff and visitors, and so proper handling is especially important. From training sessions to providing dangerous goods storage, there are many steps that will need to be taken to ensure safety when using hazardous materials, and hiring a dangerous goods consultant is one of the best ways to keep everyone safe. Here’s some information about dangerous goods, and how a consultant could help your firm.
Dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals
The term dangerous goods refers to many different chemicals and products that could have an immediate hazardous effect. They can include:
- Any products at risk of explosion
- Items that are highly flammable and can set on fire if put in contact with a spark
- Poisons that could be ingested or reach the water supply
- Chemicals that can cause skin or respiratory issues in the short or long term
These items can be categorised as dangerous goods, hazardous substances, or both and should be clearly labelled.
Classes and divisions
Each type of dangerous goods has its own class, and within the class, there’s a division which describes the hazard. Some substances can be in more than one division, meaning there’s more than one hazard. For example, oxygen is a non-flammable, non-toxic gas, and is also an oxidiser.
Class 1 dangerous goods refers to explosives, while class 2 substances are gasses, with 2.1 meaning a flammable gas, 2.2 meaning a non-flammable, non-toxic gas, and 2.3 a toxic gas. You then have class 3, which are flammable liquids, and class 4 which includes 4.1, flammable solids, 4.2, spontaneously combustible, and 4.3 – dangerous when wet.
Class 5 includes 5.1, oxidising substances, and 5.2, organic peroxides. The former can be classed as Security Risk Substances, better known as SRS. Items in division 5.1 can be ammonium nitrate and ammonium nitrate emulsions, which are a major ingredient when making explosives. You may also see the term Security Sensitive Ammonium Nitrate (SSAN) used for these products.
In class 6, you have 6.1 which is toxic substances, and 6.2 which covers infectious substances. There is then class 8 for corrosive substances, and class 9 to cover miscellaneous dangerous goods and articles that don’t fit in the above categories.
The Importance of Safety
When dealing with any of the above goods, safety should be the top priority, and should be considered in everything you do.
Legally, every business in Australia who uses these goods has an obligation to use and store these items safely and responsibly, and to ensure they don’t harm people or the environment. If improperly used or stored, dangerous goods can cause all sorts of damage, from injuries to environmental damage, and even deaths, which is why safety is taken so seriously in this area.
Organisations who don’t comply with the above can find themselves in violation of the Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR). Depending on the area of Australia in which you’re located, this can lead to fines or even jail time. Some businesses have even had their insurance policies cancelled, meaning they’re without cover when an accident occurs.
Dangerous goods consultants
So, how can businesses avoid falling foul of these laws? It’s natural to find the rules confusing and wonder how they can be applied to your business. That’s why many organisations now bring in a dangerous goods consultant to ensure they are complying with the laws, and doing all they can to keep people safe.
Some of the things a dangerous goods consultant can do include:
- Carrying out a risk assessment and seeing whether a DG licence is needed – they can make the process of getting a licence much quicker
- Ensuring there’s an emergency plan in place
- Checking that staff are properly trained and know the procedures for dangerous goods
- Identifying risks and finding ways to minimise it
- Ensuring you comply with safety standards
- Helping put procedures in place for new projects
This list doesn’t cover every single thing that a DG consultant does, but gives you an idea of the wide variety of skills that they offer, and show why they’re so essential to busy modern businesses.
Choosing a Dangerous Goods Consultant
If you decide to use the services of a DG consultant, it’s important to ensure that they’re qualified and experienced. The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety hold a list of dangerous goods consultants, including those at Atomic DG, so you can check that your consultant has the right accreditations. The organisation also has lots of information on the role of DG consultants and what they need to do.
If you’re outside Western Australia, then get in touch with the Australasian Institute of Dangerous Goods Consultants. They have a list of dangerous goods consultants for the eastern areas of Australia.
Carrying out an assessment
One of the first things a consultant will do is carry out a dangerous goods assessment, comparing it to Australian Standards which are the legal minimum. They’ll then submit a report, which will show you clearly what areas are at risk, and what needs to be done. A risk ranking will be assigned, with high risk issues needing to be sorted out as soon as possible, and issues deemed low risk needing to be rectified over time. Only a qualified and experienced consultant should carry out these assessments.
A first principles risk assessment is often carried out in places that deviate from the normal Australian Standards. This means they’ll use probability and consequences to determine the risk of things from injuries to leaks. This helps consultants to rank the risks on your premises so you know how urgent each change is.
Some sites where consultants will often carry out assessments include:
- Service stations
- Chemical factories
- Anywhere that regularly uses dangerous goods
This includes businesses of all sizes, from small to multinational.
Getting a dangerous goods licence
A DG consultant will be able to advise whether a dangerous goods licence is needed, and help with the process of getting one. You may only use a small quantity of dangerous goods, but if they’re highly dangerous, then you may still need a licence.
Anyone using the above-mentioned Security Risk Substances (SRS) will generally need a licence to import, export, store, or manufacture these substances. Even in small amounts, an explosive licence is needed to show that you are using them for legitimate reasons, and storing them safely.
The right paperwork
A big part of dealing with dangerous goods is having the right documentation. This will depend on the amount and type of dangerous goods that you have on site. Again, using the services of a consultant is really helpful here, as they’ll ensure you have the right paperwork done.
A dangerous goods plan is essential for your site, and this includes details of all the key site features and boundaries, which means in the event of an accident, the emergency services will be able to find their way around. This will also show the location of:
- Where dangerous goods are stored
- Type and quantity on-site
- Location of fire equipment – i.e. hydrants and hose reels
- Isolation points for power, water and gas
This means that should the worst happen, everyone knows where the safety equipment can be found, and they can prevent further danger by turning off utilities.
Some other paperwork that every dangerous goods site needs includes:
- A dangerous goods manifest – this should match up with the site plan
- Drawings that show the layout of high risk DG stores
- Your dangerous goods licence
- Compliance assessments
- Emergency response plan
- A list of operations and maintenance procedures
- Records of inspections and maintenance that has been carried out
- Any documentation about staff training
Obviously, this is going to be time-consuming for a business of any size, which is why DG consultants are a great help. They can ensure all your paperwork is in order, as well as creating simple procedures to follow, so staff aren’t spending all their time filling in forms.
If your site has only a small quantity of low-risk goods, then you might be exempt from needing a DG licence. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still follow the safety rules.
Firstly, you should check whether your workplace is truly exempt. It’s important not to make assumptions, but to speak to the specialists who can give you advice. They’ll need to confirm whether you meet the requirements of a small quantity dangerous goods site, and if so, what you’ll need to do to keep people safe. After all, even small quantities of dangerous goods can still cause accidents and damage if not properly looked after.