For many businesses, storing hazardous substances on site is an inevitable part to necessitate daily activities. Hazardous substances is an umbrella term for any chemical or substance that can cause adverse effects if they come into contact with its environment or an individual. Such substances most commonly take the form of caustic chemicals, solvents, cleaning products, and sealants – but businesses may be exposed to further potentially dangerous chemicals, depending on the nature of their work.
If your business is storing potentially dangerous substances and chemicals at your workplace, there are vital safety regulations to which you must adhere. These obligations maintain the safety of those handling the hazardous chemicals and those in its vicinity.
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These health and safety regulations are outlined by the UK’s Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH), detailing the steps you need to follow in order to maintain the utmost health standards and reduce the possible risks that could arise if a hazardous substance is approached in the wrong manner.
As part of your company policy, you will need to consider the following preventative safety measures:
Ensuring good lighting
Maintaining well-lit, properly ventilated and well-organized premises, is a simple yet effective way of reducing the risk of a hazardous substance being negligently handled, in turn reducing the risk of a potential spill.
There also needs to be sufficient space provided to safely contain all of the potentially harmful substances or biological agents, to avoid the need to unsafely stack or arrange hazardous substance containers.
All of the surfaces of the storage area must be impervious to the substances being stored, allowing for no risk of the surface being damaged and causing potentially catastrophic consequences, such as a major spillage.
Surfaces should also be easily accessible to those who need them, and in the event of a spill, be easy to clean and remove hazardous substances.
The best way of storing hazardous substances and chemicals is by adhering to the safety guidelines indicated by the manufacturer. These will likely be detailed by safety signs and stickers on the containers in which they are sent, so it is vital that all workers understand these before handling the substances.
Alongside container guidelines, safety and care instructions should also indicate the environment in which the substances should be stored, and whether it is too dangerous to keep them in close proximity to other substances. Moreover, potentially flammable substances must be kept away from potential ignition sources, such as boilers and heaters.
The labeling of every item facilitates the identification of the contents, which highlights:
- Every item needs to be clearly and accurately labelled for ease of identification, highlighting the need for unobstructed labeling.
- A dangerous chemical and liquid should be stored above ground, where they are less likely to be damaged by the daily activities of surrounding work.
Hazardous substances should be stored in areas which reduce the response time should a spill occur. In placing the containers near cleanup kits, staff can easily access the necessary cleaning materials to contain any spillage and reduce further health risks and environmental damage.
These steps will vary depending on the type of hazardous substance you are using in your workplace, but by considering each factor, you will be able to make sure that every probable risk has been accounted for, and that safe practices are being followed when storing potentially harmful substances.
In addition to providing safe storage space and abiding by best practice standards when handling hazardous materials, companies can help to keep their staff safe by implementing the following control measures and precautions:
- Provide in-depth training for all employees to explain safe practices for storing hazardous substances, including clear information on all of the potential risks and manufacturer’s instructions, and guidance on when protective clothing may be needed.
- Create and instill a clear emergency procedure to ensure that any leaks or spills are cleaned up as quickly as possible, which includes the provision of all necessary equipment to contain spills.
- Thoroughly check the storage area for signs of wear and tear, which could lead to adverse leaks, and extend checks to ensure that no product has its use-by dates.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff needing to be in the vicinity of the hazardous substance.
By instilling these policies and ensuring they are continuously adhered to. you will be able to give your staff the benefit of a safe working environment, allowing your business to manage the risks associated with hazardous substances and materials without any impact on your day-to-day activities.