A gas leakage incident on a construction site this week has highlighted the need for contingency plans to be developed as part of every work sites safety plan in order to deal with emergencies such as this one.
According to Bendigoadvertiser.com.au this is what occurred:
EMERGENCY services workers have cleared the scene of a gas leak in Mollison Street.
Bendigo CFA senior station officer Bruce Quarrier said contractors using an auger accidentally broke a gas line.
“They’d marked the area out but these things happen from time to time,” he said.
“It didn’t cause too much disruption.
“We were probably there for about 20 minutes.”
Police blocked the Williamson Street entry to Mollison Street for a short period of time.
Hazmat cases involve chemicals and other materials (in this case gas) that can cause harm to workers and other people, property or the environment through fire, explosion, reaction or release. Swift action is needed in these situations as delays could mean the difference between life and death. In order to be able to react quickly and without hesitation workers need to be appropriately trained and educated on workplace health and safety and management of hazards.
How to Manage a Hazmat Risk
The beginning of the process is Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment
Hazard Identification takes into the intrinsic hazards of the chemicals, hazards that are presented by the actual work environment and hazards that arise directly out of the work processes. Risk assessment in this situation would revolve around risk identification of physiochemical hazards.
Guidelines to Minimise Exposure to Hazardous Materials/Chemicals on Site:
- As with all hazards the first attempt should always involve elimination of the hazard. This can be done by removing all non-essential hazardous material. If it is not crucial to the work process, try to do without it.
- The second approach should be substitution, by using a less hazardous material or the same substance in a less hazardous form or process.
- Engineering controls and administrative controls should be the attempted next if substitution does not sufficiently minimise the risk. An example would be to separate a process from people by distance or by barriers like separating the area for mixing and preparing chemicals with limited access.
- An alternative may involve the use of machinery, equipment or processes that minimise workplace contamination by containing or removing hazardous material.
- Change the way that people do the job or have procedures about how to do the job safely, like limiting the period of exposure for a worker, this is known as administrative control measures.
- The final approach should be the provision and training on PPE. That includes clothing like respirators, gloves or eye protection that is suitable for the material, the task and the operator and is fitted to the worker. These PPE must be worn at all times and must comply with relevant Australian Standards.
- These controls and PPE must be properly maintained and kept in good working order to ensure they are effective in minimising exposure to the hazardous chemical/material.
- Monitor and carefully control the amount and level of the hazardous material in the workplace air so that a worker’s exposure is kept to a minimum that will not harm them.
- Worker exposure can be regularly monitored, estimated and compared with the exposure standards found in the Hazardous Substances Information System.
- The employer must consult with the workplace health and safety committee representative when a new hazardous material is brought into the work environment or if the way the work process is carried out is changed.
- Employers should consult with workers regularly on workplace hazards and the effectiveness of current systems. Communication between workers and employers should be kept open so that workers can raise concerns about the way a hazardous material is used in the workplace with the committee or the Workplace health and safety representative.
According to advice given by WorkSafe Victoria, employers can use a generic risk assessment for their given industry as hazards, risks and work processes will be similar or the same. Rather than developing their own risk assessments that can use one from a similar workplace. An example given by WorkSafe is that of a service station who could use a generic risk assessment developed for other service stations rather than developing their own. The same is true of construction sites.
Posted by Steven Asnicar