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Chemical handling: Protecting your workers and the environment

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Knowing the correct way to handle, manage, and store chemical can have far reaching safety and financial consequences for many businesses.

Work related injuries are known to cost the nation more than $60 billion annually, while the financial costs associated with fines resulting from chemical incidents can run up to a million dollars, and even result in jail sentences.

Late last year explosives manufacturer Orica was hit with nearly $500 000 in fines after unauthorised water discharges saw it spill cyanide into nearby stormwater drains.

Ensuring that your company has the correct procedures in place from the start means that your workers aren't taking unnecessary risks, and you aren't making your company liable for any potential accidents.

Worksafe Victoria has produced a comprehensive guide to help employers manage chemicals safely. In the guide, the organisation has developed a 12-step process to managing chemicals safely, which includes planning, hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control phases. 

Step 1: Decide who is responsible for key tasks and plan actions. 

Step 2: Identify all chemicals stored and used. 

Step 3: Obtain and review Material Safety Data Sheets. 

Step 4: Check and ensure containers of chemicals and chemicals in systems/pipework are adequately labelled or identified. 

Step 5: Set up a hazardous substances/dangerous goods (or chemicals) register. 

Step 6: Ensure MSDSs are accessible to employees (and other relevant people). 

Step 7: Assess the risks associated with chemicals used and stored. 

Step 8: Undertake atmospheric monitoring and/or health surveillance if required. 

Step 9: Eliminate or minimise any risks to people and property. 

Step 10: Provide information, instruction and training. 

Step 11: Identify and undertake specific duties if scheduled carcinogens and threshold quantities of dangerous goods are stored or used.
Step 12: Document and check the way you do things. 

By being prepared companies can ensure that they aren't caught out with an unexpected fine, and their workers are safe from harm.

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