Every time I am asked about how to handle and transport chemical products I answer that it is all about being well-informed.
Indeed, there are various elements that one has to know when it comes to the storage and handling of chemical products.
The first thing is that this sector is regulated by specifics laws and norms which means that not respecting them could potentially get you in trouble with the legal authorities of your country. And as a business owner, this is probably the last thing you want to happen.
The second element one has to take into consideration is that non-compliance with these norms and safety measures could reveal itself to be dangerous for your employees.
I know that sometimes following all these rules can be tedious or may even seem useless, but if you do not do it because of the potential legal repercussions, at least do it for your personnel because their lives may literally depend on the way the chemicals products inside your facility or company are handled.
When it comes to advising people, the majority of the time I follow a simple 5-step guideline to establish the main challenges related to the storage and handling of chemical products. Indeed, it is a complicated matter so I might as well try to make it the easiest possible.
Also, most people aren´t actual professionals in this sector, hence the reason why they only need general information, rather than a scientific-fact-filled lecture. My main goal is usually to raise awareness about the most important elements one has to keep in mind when storing or handling chemicals products.
So without further ado, let´s get right to it.
1- Know your chemicals
My first piece of advice is to always be aware of the type of chemicals you are storing. Indeed not all chemicals are similar. They are actually divided into nine categories: explosives, gases, flammable liquids and combustible liquids, flammable solids, oxidizers and organic peroxides, toxics, radioactive, corrosives and miscellaneous (1).
Once I get this point across, people usually start to understand what I am trying to get at. It is indeed pretty obvious; storing an explosive chemical with a flammable liquid may not be the smartest idea one could have.
Even though the products are unlikely to come into contact thanks to their containers, a spill or any similar accident could happen and quickly grow out of proportion. This is all about prevention. Even though there is no immediate risk to storing chemicals together, a dangerous reaction could occur if they somehow were to come into contact. Therefore, it is necessary to store them in a way that will reduce these risks to a minimum.
2- Take a look at the labels
The question that usually stirs after we have established the different types of chemicals, is how to actually recognize them? Not everybody is able to know in which category belongs dichloromethane. This is when I start explaining that labels are important.
They will help you understand under in which conditions your chemicals have to be kept. They usually state the risks and the safety measures linked to the use of a chemical (2). A risk and safety statement (or R/S Statement/phrase) (2) is written this way: R:26 (standing for: “Very toxic by inhalation”), S:8-51 (respectively standing for “keeping container dry” and “Use only in well-ventilated area”).
These two steps are in my opinion the most important ones, and people tend to get a better understanding of the challenges inherent to the storage and handling of chemicals after I tell them about these two. However, their suffering does not end here because I do have a few more things up my sleeve.
3- Carefully manage your inventory
I always put a huge emphasis on the fact that the stocks have to be thoroughly managed. You have to know when a chemical entered your facility when it got out, its quantity, the amount of time it remained stored, and so on.
Not only because by doing so you will give total control of the chemicals you own which will make logistics easier as well as enabling the personnel to react quickly in case of emergency. But also because storing products for too long could actually be dangerous.
Indeed, it could lead to the deterioration of the container, enabling spills and possible incidents. Thus it is necessary to keep your stocks up-to-date, renew them regularly and to store only what you really need.
4- Provide appropriate equipment
I also strongly recommend you provide your employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) so that they can deal with the chemicals safely (3). The equipment has to be adapted to the type of chemical; some of them will for instance require that the employees wear corrosion-proof equipment.
This will prevent them from getting injured, but will also protect you from potential lawsuits.
5- Training on safety measures
And last but not least, one should never pass on providing one’s employees proper training on the safety measures and how to react in case of emergency. And I can already see you rolling your eyes, but as boring as it may sound, the difference between a catastrophe and a danger under control often lies with properly trained employees.
This is why you should spend some time making sure they are fully aware of the different aspects they have to take into consideration when it comes to ward off danger.
Safety and prevention are the keys to a successful supply chain. This is why, if your do not own the equipment or infrastructure required for the storage or transportation of chemicals products, I advise you to reach out to companies specialized in the field of Chemical Storage.
Carla Sanz has several years of experience in the digital marketing, community management and journalism sectors. She is currently working for the communication team at Barnastock (http://barnastock.com/en), a Spanish company dealing with the storage and transportation of chemical products.
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