Safe Practice for Storing Hazardous Substances on a Construction Site

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Safety should always be a top priority on construction sites. With various hazards present, it is essential to manage and minimise risks effectively. One such hazard is the presence of hazardous substances. Here, the occupational safety experts at discuss the identification, storage, and handling of hazardous substances on construction sites, focusing on compliance with UK regulations and best practices.

Identifying Hazardous Substances

Hazardous substances are materials that pose a risk to human health or the environment. Examples of these that are commonly used on construction sites include:

  • Chemicals (e.g. adhesives, solvents)
  • Products containing chemicals
  • Fumes
  • Dusts
  • Vapours
  • Mists
  • Nanotechnology
  • Gases and asphyxiating gases
  • Biological agents (germs)
  • Germs that cause disease

To manage these substances safely, it is crucial to understand their properties, hazards, and appropriate handling measures. One such way is to use Safety Data Sheets (SDS), which provide essential information about hazardous substances and should be readily accessible to all workers. Employers must ensure they prepare SDSs for each type of hazardous substance on the site. However, the safe practice for storing hazardous substances goes much further than checking over an SDS.

Legal Requirements and Regulations

Several UK regulations govern the management of hazardous substances on construction sites:

  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – aims to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of employees and others who may be affected by workplace activities, such as visitors and members of the public.
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002 – focuses on managing the risks associated with hazardous substances in the workplace. COSHH aims to protect employees and others who may be exposed to hazardous substances by setting out the requirements for employers to assess and control these risks.
  • Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 – governs the management of health, safety, and welfare in construction projects. The primary objective of the CDM 2015 is to improve health and safety standards in the construction industry by outlining the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders involved in a project, such as clients, designers, principal contractors, and subcontractors.

Compliance with these regulations is essential to ensure workers’ safety and avoid penalties or legal action from those affected by the governing body – the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). If construction employers fail to meet the requirements of the legislation relevant to the industry, they can expect legal repercussions, fines, and damages to reputation.

Risk Assessments

A comprehensive risk assessment should be conducted to identify hazards associated with hazardous substances, evaluate the risks, and develop appropriate control measures. The process typically involves the following steps:

  • Hazard identification – the first step is to identify potential hazards present on the construction site. These may include working at height, manual handling, use of hazardous substances, machinery or equipment, electrical hazards, noise, and vibration, among others.
  • Risk evaluation – once hazards have been identified, the assessor evaluates the likelihood and severity of harm that could result from each hazard. This involves considering factors such as the number of people exposed, the duration of exposure, existing control measures, and the potential consequences of an accident or incident.
  • Control measures – based on the risk evaluation, appropriate control measures are implemented to eliminate or minimise the risks associated with each hazard. Control measures should follow the hierarchy of controls, which prioritises elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and finally, the use of hazardous substance cabinets for storage.
  • Documentation – the findings of the risk assessment should be documented, including the hazards identified, risk evaluation, control measures, and any residual risks. This documentation serves as a record of the assessment process and as a reference for future assessments or updates.
  • Communication – the results of the risk assessment must be communicated to all relevant personnel, including employees, contractors, and other stakeholders. This ensures that everyone is aware of the hazards, risks, and control measures in place on the construction site.
  • Monitoring and review – risk assessments should be monitored and reviewed periodically or when there are significant changes in work practices, equipment, or personnel. This ensures that the assessment remains relevant and up-to-date, and that control measures continue to be effective in managing the risks.

Conducting risk assessments in the construction industry is crucial for maintaining a safe working environment, complying with legal requirements, and preventing accidents and incidents that could result in harm, project delays, or financial losses.

Proper Storage of Hazardous Substances

To store hazardous substances safely, consider the following:

  • Choose appropriate storage containers that are compatible with the substance and prevent leaks or spills.
  • Label containers clearly and display hazard warning signs.
  • Segregate incompatible substances to avoid reactions or cross-contamination.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation to prevent the buildup of harmful vapours.
  • Implement spill containment measures, such as sumps or drip trays.
  • Conduct regular inspections and maintenance of storage areas and containers.

Safe Handling and Transportation

When handling and transporting hazardous substances, workers should:

  • Wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as gloves and goggles.
  • Use safe lifting and handling techniques.
  • Receive proper training on handling specific hazardous substances.
  • Follow emergency procedures in case of spills or accidents.

Waste Management and Disposal

Proper management and disposal of hazardous waste are crucial to prevent harm to people and the environment. This includes identifying and segregating hazardous waste, using appropriate disposal methods, working with licensed waste carriers, and maintaining accurate records.

Training and Communication

Adequate training and effective communication are vital to ensure the safe handling and storage of hazardous substances. Workers should be provided with necessary training, have access to Safety Data Sheets (SDS), and be familiar with relevant safety signage.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Developing an emergency response plan and training workers on emergency procedures are essential for handling hazardous substance incidents. Ensure the availability of first aid and spill response equipment and coordinate with local emergency services.

Monitoring and Review

Conduct regular inspections and audits to ensure compliance with safety practices. Review risk assessments and control measures periodically, investigate incidents and near misses, and continually improve safety practices.

Best Practices for Hazardous Substance Storage

To ensure the highest level of safety when storing hazardous substances on construction sites, consider adopting the following best practices:

  • Implement a proactive safety culture that encourages workers to report potential hazards and prioritise safety.
  • Keep safety policies and procedures up-to-date, incorporating the latest industry standards and best practices.
  • Encourage open communication and reporting channels to address safety concerns promptly.
  • Regularly review industry standards and best practices to ensure continuous improvement.

Key Takeaways

The safe handling and storage of hazardous substances on construction sites are crucial.

Key takeaways from this blog post that you should consider include:

  • Identifying and understanding hazardous substances.
  • Compliance with legal requirements and regulations.
  • Conducting risk assessments and implementing control measures.
  • Safe hazardous substance cabinet storage
  • Regulatory handling and disposal of hazardous substances.
  • Providing adequate training and fostering effective communication.
  • Preparing for emergencies and regularly monitoring safety practices.

How often should I review my risk assessments?

Risk assessments should be reviewed and carried out regularly to ensure that they remain relevant and effective. The frequency of these assessments depends on various factors, including the type of work, the level of risk, and the specific requirements of the project.

According to UK health and safety regulations, risk assessments should be reviewed:

  • Whenever there are significant changes in work activities, processes, or personnel that may affect the risk assessment.
  • When new hazards or risks are identified.
  • If the existing control measures are found to be inadequate or ineffective.
  • Periodically to ensure that the assessment remains up-to-date and relevant.

In general, risk assessments should be reviewed at least annually, or more frequently if the level of risk is high. This ensures that any changes or developments in the construction site are considered, and control measures remain effective in managing the risks.

It is essential to note that risk assessments should also be carried out before commencing any new work activity, process, or project to identify any potential hazards and implement appropriate control measures.

What should I do if an employee is exposed to a hazardous substance?

If an employee is exposed to a hazardous substance, it is crucial to take immediate action to minimise the risks to their health and safety. Here are the steps you should follow:

  • Move the employee away from the hazardous substance – if the employee is still in contact with the hazardous substance, move them to a safe location away from the source of exposure.
  • Provide first aid – if necessary, provide immediate first aid treatment to the affected employee. This may include flushing the affected area with water, removing contaminated clothing, or applying emergency eyewash.
  • Notify the supervisor or manager – inform the employee’s supervisor or manager of the incident as soon as possible. They can then take the necessary steps to report the incident and provide any additional support or treatment that may be required.
  • Seek medical attention – if the employee has been exposed to a hazardous substance, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. This can help to identify any potential health risks associated with the exposure and ensure that appropriate treatment is provided.
  • Investigate the incident – conduct a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the exposure and identify any potential control measures that could be implemented to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future.
  • Report the incident – report the incident to the relevant authorities, such as the HSE, if required by law.

Can I store different types of hazardous substances together?

Incompatible hazardous substances should be stored separately to avoid reactions or cross-contamination. Refer to the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for guidance on segregation.

How do I choose the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for handling hazardous substances?

Choosing the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for handling hazardous substances is essential to protect employees from exposure to harmful materials. Refer to the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for guidance on appropriate PPE for each specific hazardous substance.

It is important to remember that PPE should be used as a last resort when other control measures, such as elimination or substitution, are not feasible or effective. Employers should always prioritise eliminating or minimising the risks associated with hazardous substances and use PPE as a supplementary measure to protect employees from any residual risks.

The safe storage and management of hazardous substances on construction sites are essential to protect workers, the environment, and ensure project success. By following the guidelines and best practices outlined in this blog post, construction companies can foster a culture of safety and responsibility that benefits everyone involved.