Managing risks of hazardous materials with help from professionals

Manufacturers’ Monthly spoke to Mark Henderson, director of Hazkem on the importance of taking expert advice for storage and handling of dangerous goods and hazardous materials.

No company or business can afford to neglect the importance of safe storage and handling of dangerous goods and hazardous materials. The issue is one that involves not only the safety of the companies’ workforce and their compliance with regulations, but also the greater responsibility that all companies share towards environmental protection.

Dangerous goods exist in almost all businesses big and small. Put simply, they are substances that may pose an immediate hazard to people, property or the environment.

But not all manufacturing companies are well equipped with the knowledge and expertise required for handling dangerous goods and hazardous material. The required knowledge can be highly complex and involves many parameters, neglecting any of which could lead to catastrophic consequences for companies. This is where consulting companies can help businesses understand the requirements and regulations that pertain to each specific case.

Hazkem, a Melbourne-based company, has been offering professional advice to companies throughout Australia and overseas for nearly 35 years on matters concerning the compliance requirements associated with the storage, handling and transportation of hazardous materials.

From design of storage facilities for hazardous material to site auditing, risk assessment and obtaining permits and certifications of compliance from state councils and fire authorities, Hazkem offers a wide range of services to businesses.

“Anyone who uses, or stores, or transports materials classified as dangerous goods should be aware of the regulatory standards that need to be adhered to and therefore may require the service of consulting companies,” Hazkem’s director, Mark Henderson told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“Issues such as how much of a product can be stored on the site, or what products can be stored in conjunction with each other and in what condition are all important issues that require professional supervision and consultation,” Henderson said.

Hazkem has been engaged by national and multinational companies including Shell, BP, 7/11, ELGAS, Air Liquide, Supagas, Kleenheat Gas, Origin, BHP Billiton and XStrata, among others. The company has wide ranging experience in the fuel, aviation, chemical, gas and manufacturing sectors as well as well-trained consultants, all of whom are registered with the Australian Institute of Dangerous Goods Consultants (AIDGC).

Quantities of hazardous material to be stored within a plant as well as the types of materials that are to be stored in conjunction are all important factors that determine the safety parameters to be considered.

“A company might have been storing certain chemicals in accordance with best practices, but when they decide to store more of the same product or add new products to their storage facility, the safety needs to be reassessed by an expert,” said Henderson.

At this point, the companies contact experts like Hazkem for consultation, who send a team to inspect the facility for risk assessment.

“Our teams visit the plant to find out what dangerous goods are being stored and in what quantities. We also assess the storage condition and then prepare a report containing the required control measures to rectify possible shortcomings before issuing them a compliance certificate,” Henderson said.

While some companies take advice from consulting firms for storing dangerous material on their existing plants, site auditing to assess a physical location for takeover by companies is another area where consulting firms play an instrumental role.

“As an example, we recently proposed a storage design for a company dealing with cyanide gas contained in cylinders. Cyanide being a very harmful gas, the client needed advice on the suitable location and the best way to store the product,” Henderson said.

“We did our research and found that our advice is that the product had to be either kept outside or in a extremely well-ventilated space. It also needed to be stored away from any water sources and above any recorded flood level.”

“Without our advice, the company had no way of knowing where and how to store the product. We provided them with the storage design that fulfilled the requirements for ample ventilation. We also provided them information on security and access regulations; including how much space they needed to maintain from the property boundaries and from the protected places within the property, such as offices, etc,” said Henderson.

Councils and Shires across Australia require businesses who handle dangerous goods or hazardous materials to adhere to a range of regulations relevant to their area. Hazkem works with these businesses to ensure they comply with the codes set by local authorities and ensure the permits, approvals or certifications are obtained in line with town planning regulations.

“For example, all sites storing or handling dangerous goods in Western Australia require licensing under Dangerous Goods Storage Regulations. Companies intending to apply for a license need a licensed consultant to submit the application on their behalf, to ensure compliance with all relevant regulations,” said Henderson.

Logistics transport and storage is another area where particular care needs to be taken. “The transport companies need to ensure that the dangerous goods they transport and/or provide 3PL storage and distributions services for are

dealt with appropriately and in accordance with regulations. These could even be retail products, such as aerosols, which are potentially being stored in large quantities and therefore pose risks that need to be addressed cautiously,” Henderson noted.

With strict regulations, harsh penalties and serious dangers, all companies need to understand the risks associated with dangerous goods. Consulting companies like Hazkem can help companies keep their workplace safe as well as to avoid financial losses, insurance problems and the harsh penalties that can result from an accident.