At all stages of the supply chain – from transport to storage – safe chemical handling is essential to prevent bodily harm and environmental damage. Since globalisation has made supply chains longer in most industries, organisations must stay ahead of chemical storage hazards with rigorous safety processes, transparent documentation, and exhaustive planning.
Ensure that a thorough performance review is carried out in the following areas:
Globalisation has enabled manufacturers to transport hazardous chemicals around the world, meaning greater responsibility falls upon all stakeholders throughout the supply chain to clearly document risks, compulsory safety measures, and storage guidelines for each substance.
Proper chemical storage cabinets, alongside segregation of hazardous chemicals by class is essential. Chemical storage facilities must have separate storage areas for explosive, flammable, oxidising, toxic, or corrosive chemicals, and the refrigeration or heating systems in place to store products in a temperature controlled environment.
The pertinent information for each chemical will be listed on the label and detailed in the SDS.
Learn more: Safe chemical segregation – 10 sets of chemicals that should never be stored together.
At every stage in the supply chain, national and international regulations apply. Failure to comply can incur not just heavy penalties, but also reputational damage. Where goods are transferred across more than one nation or area of jurisdiction, a paper trail must be maintained with full traceability of each source.
Regulations apply to the manufacture, transport, storage and use of hazardous chemicals, whether it is Carriage of Dangerous Goods regulations governing how chemicals can be transported between locations, or COSHH regulations detailing the responsibilities of the employer.
Since safety and compliance records typically have to be stored and made available for 10 years or more, it is worth investing in an ERP system that identifies any gaps or lapses in compliance.
Make sure that only trained, authorised employees are allowed to interact with hazardous chemicals, and that training is reviewed and repeated regularly. Training should not just cover emergency procedures.
Staff must also be engaged to follow safety and compliance regulations on an ongoing basis, and documentation should be kept up to date on each employee’s training status – whether they are on premises as a full-time employee or temporary contractor.
Personal Protective Equipment must be available, properly maintained, and regularly inspected for use throughout the supply chain. At one end of the spectrum, this means ensuring the simple barrier protection – such as gloves, goggles and overalls – is available for safe handling of hazardous chemicals. At the other, there needs to be the self-contained breathing apparatus or fully-encapsulated protective suits within easy reach for first responders to manage an emergency leak or spill.
Again, it is the responsibility of the employer to assess what protective measures are necessary, based on the information in the MSDS.
Emergency plans to mitigate the human and environmental damage from spills or reactions should be communicated at every step of the supply chain. Anyone with authorised access to handle, transport, or store a hazardous chemical needs to know the emergency plan and procedures by heart – or at least where to locate them at short notice.
Organisations that handle hazardous chemicals should appoint a principal supervisor to carry out a risk assessment and create a suitable emergency plan that conforms to COSHH regulations. The plan should cover shut down and evacuation procedures, PPE use, containment and spill kit deployment, and liaison with first responders.
These plans must be regularly reviewed, equipment inspected, and employees refreshed in their use with spill emergency response drills. No employee should be allowed to work in close proximity to hazardous chemicals without knowing where to locate PPE and decontamination equipment, breakers or extinguishers, spill kits and emergency exits.
Likewise, chemicals under transport must be accompanied by all necessary MSDS and containment equipment so that environmental agencies can minimise human and environmental damage in case of a spill.
Learn more: You can read more about the dangers of chemical spills, and the importance of reacting quickly here.
Access to information
Today’s globalised organisation has the capability to share information digitally across on-premise and remote locations in order to drive lean processes for improved efficiency and safety. One of the key benefits of smart warehousing and optimised inventory is that chemical storage facilities can minimise the amount of hazardous chemicals they need to accommodate at any given time, which is always the safest approach of all.
Digital technology also allows employees to share safety information throughout the supply chain, and ensure that each unit is handled, transported and stored with the appropriate safety documentation. The label is the primary tool for communicating hazards to the consumer, while the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) protects the employee, notifying them of the correct handling procedures, specific risks, and safe storage requirements.
Chemicals present an assortment of hazards throughout the supply chain, with risks to those both within and without your organisation. Implementing a complete safety strategy to cover the aspects above establishes a solid framework for efficient, safe operations.
For more information and storing or transporting chemicals in a safe and compliant manager, contact our chemical storage experts.