Two employees suffered serious burns when they attempted to extinguish a machine fire with liquid from an unmarked container. The employees mistakenly thought the liquid in the container was water when it was actually a flammable liquid.
Dangerous goods are substances that are corrosive, flammable, combustible, explosive, oxidising or water-reactive, or have other hazardous properties. Dangerous goods can cause explosions or fires, serious injury, death and large-scale damage.
Dangerous goods stored in unmarked containers pose serious risks to health and safety as the appearance of dangerous goods can be mistaken for other goods, such as water.
Recommended ways to control risks
Manufacturers and suppliers must provide a copy of the current safety data sheet (SDS) on or before the first occasion that dangerous goods are supplied to any person for use. There must also be package markings and class or hazard class information. These will help identify what is in a product, precautions for use, and safe storage and handling requirements.
If an occupier of premises where dangerous goods are stored and handled receives a package of dangerous goods, they must ensure the package marking on the containers remains in a legible form and is not removed, defaced or altered.
If dangerous goods are transferred into a portable container for use at the workplace, an occupier of premises must ensure:
- the container into which the dangerous goods are transferred is clearly labelled with the class, subsidiary risk and product name of the dangerous goods, or
- if this is not possible, another means of clearly identifying the dangerous goods is used
This requirement does not apply if the dangerous goods transferred are to be used immediately.
An occupier must also ensure that all persons involved with the storage and handling of dangerous goods at the premises are provided with induction, information, training and supervision. This must be relevant to the task being undertaken and in an appropriate language.
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors.
The Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2012 also sets out legal duties for manufacturers and suppliers, and for occupiers of workplaces where dangerous goods are stored or handled. The Code of practice for storage and handling of dangerous goods provides practical information on how to comply.