In small factories hazardous materials may include chemicals and other materials that you use or produce that can harm people or the environment if stored or handled incorrectly.
Use of chemicals
There may be less environmentally damaging materials on the market that you could use as substitutes for chemicals you are currently using. Seek out and investigate alternatives.
Labels and material safety data sheets
- Read the labels on all chemical products. The label will help you identify the product, its ingredients and the hazards or dangers of the product. The label also contains important health and safety information. WorkCover NSW has some useful publications on managing chemical hazards in the workplace.
- Have on hand the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for each hazardous substance used. An MSDS is an information sheet on the safe use and disposal of a hazardous substance. It is just as important as any tool or piece of equipment in your business. In an emergency it contains information that can save lives. You should ask your supplier for an MSDS for every
hazardous substance you buy and/or use.
Some materials are classified as dangerous goods. Materials classified as dangerous goods are marked with a class label which indicates the nature of the hazard; for example, an explosive, a gas, a flammable liquid or solid, an oxidising agent, a poison, or a radioactive or corrosive substance. There are many regulations relating to the storage of dangerous goods. For more information on storing dangerous goods contact WorkCover NSW. For information on the transport of dangerous goods and dangerous goods licensing contact the DECC Environment Line.
General information about hazardous materials
- Ensure that all staff know and understand the potential hazards of the chemicals used and establish practices and procedures to prevent leaks, spills and emergency situations that could harm your employees and the environment.
- Ensure that each chemical on your premises is stored in a designated area away from stormwater drains. Designated storage areas should be bunded. (Refer to the 'Bunding' section of Planning and General Information)
- Store each type of chemical in a separate container and clearly label each container with the name of the chemical it contains. Do not store incompatible chemicals with each other.
- Develop a spill clean-up plan that outlines what staff should do in case of a spill.
- Check your work areas regularly to identify any equipment, operations or procedures that have the potential to result in a spill. Make the necessary changes to minimise the potential for a spill to occur. In particular, make sure that:
- full or partially full drums and containers are not placed where they may be knocked over by forklifts or reversing trucks etc.
- all workers on the site know how to handle equipment properly
- high-level alarms are installed on any tanks which are filled by a liquid transfer operation
- operators constantly monitor liquid transfer operations
- drums and tanks are bunded where necessary. (Refer to the 'Bunding' section of Planning and General Information)
General actions for dealing with spills
Prepare and practice your spill clean-up procedure. Staff should know what to do, where to find emergency equipment and how to use it. Available equipment should include mops, brooms, rags, material to prevent spills going into drains, and material to absorb spills. Ensure you have appropriate and sufficient amounts of clean-up equipment on site. Keep this material in a clearly labelled and accessible location. It is important to:
- Stop the source of the spill immediately if it is safe to do so.
- Contain the spill and control its flow (Refer to the relevant MSDS). Stop the spill from entering any stormwater drains by blocking the drain inlets.
- Clean up the spill. It is important to clean up all spills quickly, even small ones, as they can easily flow into stormwater drains or be washed there by rain.
- Store all waste generated from spill clean up in a sealed vessel and in a bunded and covered area.
- Contact a waste contractor who is licensed to dispose of the absorbents used in the spill clean up.
Emergency response to spills
- Make all staff aware of emergency telephone numbers to call in the case of a spill.
- Make sure staff and other people are not at risk from exposure to the spilled substance.
- If a spill occurs that threatens or harms the environment, you must tell the EPA or the local council as soon as you can after you became aware of it.
- For large-scale, hazardous spills call the Fire Brigade immediately on 000. If you cannot contain any spill of hazardous materials (regardless of its size) contact the Fire Brigade immediately.
- For small-scale spills, follow the MSDS for the spilled substance.
- Your local council
- WorkCover NSW, Tel: 131 050
- Standards Australia, Tel: (02) 9746 4700
- DECC Environment Line, Tel: 131 555
- Yellow Pages - look under 'Spill & Chemical Spill Recovery & Dispersal Services' and also under 'Environmental & Pollution Consultants'
Page last updated: 27 February 2011