3 Common Concerns in a Chemical Safety Audit Checklist
Improper handling and storage of hazardous chemicals can result in damages both to life and property, but using a chemical safety audit checklist can prevent that. Read this article to learn more about what common concerns are addressed in the checklist.
What is a Chemical Safety Checklist?
A chemical safety checklist is a document used to audit facilities that produce, handle and store chemicals that are considered to be hazardous to humans, properties, and the environment. This safety checklist was created by various government agencies and safety institutions to prevent any undesirable incidents that can cause injury or even death.
These hazardous chemicals are indispensable when creating a lot of essential products. And that is why many governments are unable to totally ban its usage and instead compromise on imposing strict regulations to prevent accidents.
However, even with the imposed regulations on chemical facilities, there are a lot of incidents that have caused severe damage to life and property. One of these incidents is the recent explosion that occurred in Beirut Lebanon which claimed more than 220 lives, injured 6,500 people, and caused an estimated 6.7 billion dollars in damage to the economy.
According to the investigations made, this incident in Lebanon was caused by a fire in a storage warehouse that ignited the adjacent warehouse containing a large amount of ammonium nitrate (nearly 2.7 kilotons). The explosion was so powerful that it was categorized as the third most devastating explosion just below the nuclear bombings in Japan.
Although not all incidents are physically hazardous (which can cause explosions and fires), improper chemical handling and storage can still cause health hazards to workers such as irritation, sensitization, and carcinogenicity. These effects can lead to injuries, permanent physical damage, and even death.
Due to these incidents caused by mishandling or improper storage, government agencies have stepped up their efforts and strictness when conducting a safety audit in the chemical industry. When facilities are deemed to have violated regulations after a thorough chemical plant safety audit, they can be fined up to $20,000 per violation and imprisonment depending on the severity.
Using a chemical safety audit checklist is an effective way to mitigate these risks and prevent incurring losses or penalties due to accidents.
In this article, the following points are explained:
What are the Common Concerns Addressed by a Chemical Safety Audit Checklist?
Below are three common concerns during a chemical safety audit. This is referenced from the Joint Safety Advisory of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure (CISA).
During the inspection, the storage of chemicals is the most visible concern because it refers to various physical aspects such as container materials, arrangement, and labels. So here are some points to consider when preparing for the audit:
- Container material – the material of the container should not be reactive with the chemical stored inside it
- Container integrity – the container should be in good condition and free from any signs of physical damage such as cracks, dents, and corrosion.
- Labeling – each container should be properly labeled according to the regulations of relevant government departments and institutions.
- Incompatible chemicals – chemicals that are highly reactive to one another should not be stored close to each other to prevent fire, explosion, and release of toxic fumes. Ideally, these chemicals should be stored in another warehouse or silo.
- Container arrangement – containers should not be improperly stacked and should have proper spacing for aisles
- Secondary containment – in case of leaks or spills, there should be an immediate and adequate secondary container ready.
- Warehouse capabilities – the warehouse or silo where the chemicals are stored should be structurally capable of withstanding fire and explosion. It should also have appropriate control systems for fires that are according to relevant regulations.
Inventory and Declared Quantity
This common concern in a chemical safety audit checklist pertains to the records of the chemical that are and have been stored inside a warehouse or silo. These inventory reports should be according to the standards set forth by the relevant government agency and other safety institutions.
For example, in the United States, companies that work with hazardous chemicals should submit these reports and records:
- Safety Data Sheet – This is a report of all the hazardous chemicals (including all of their properties and proper handling) that are submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their local fire department. These submitted lists should be duly acknowledged and received
- Tier II Inventory Form – This is a report of all the hazardous chemicals, stated in the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1200, which are above the minimum reporting threshold that is currently present in a chemical facility.
Risk Management Program
Risk Management Program (RMP) applies to companies that handle certain regulated chemicals depending on the facility’s country and the relevant international institutions such as OSHA or HSE.
This program enables swift response during emergencies such as an accidental chemical release or a fire incident. Having a swift response during these types of emergencies will drastically lessen the number of casualties and damage to property.
This program should contain the following details:
- Hazard assessment of the potential effects during an accidental chemical release
- History of accidents, related to the regulated chemicals, in the last 5 years
- Evaluation of worst-case scenarios during an accidental chemical release
- Accident prevention and maintenance programs
- An emergency response program during chemical accidents
- Employee training for emergency response during chemical accidents
- Risk Management Plan should be duly submitted to respective government agencies and other relevant institutions
Chemical Safety Audits Benefit From Root Cause Analysis
As we’ve previously mentioned, Risk Management Program (RMP) is a common concern during chemical safety audits. And as it so happens, OSHA requires those facilities that have a Risk Management Program to conduct incident investigations.
During these incident investigations, OSHA and EPA encourage companies to use root cause analysis because it pinpoints the underlying reason or the systemic reason as to why it happened.
Once the underlying reason for an incident has been identified and resolved, it will prevent similar incidents from happening again. This will result in fewer business interruptions, fewer worker casualties, and prevent unwanted regulatory fines which will save a lot of money for the company. Aside from that, trust can be gained from the workers and customers because it shows how much a company values its employees’ welfare.
How to Conduct a Root Cause Analysis
When conducting a root cause analysis, it is important to keep in mind that there might not only be one root cause for a certain incident. So, it’s important to consider all possible angles and it can be done by asking “what”, “why”, and “how” questions.
For example, let’s consider an incident where a worker gets an injury from handling a hazardous chemical. To discover the root cause, the investigator may need to ask questions such as “what personal protective equipment (PPE) did they use?”, “why did they need to move the chemical?”, and “how was the chemical handled?”.
Tools to Improve Root Cause Analysis
Aside from asking the right questions, here are some tools that can help improve root cause analysis:
- Brainstorming – collaborating with others is a great way to gain new insights into an incident
- Checklists – this is a great tool to establish facts on the incident being investigated
- Logic/Event Trees – this is a great tool to explore and assess the responses of an employee and know what are the possible outcomes
- Timelines – this is a great tool to establish the chronological details of the incident being investigated
How Using A Digital Checklist Can Make Your Chemical Safety Audit More Efficient
With Lumiform’s audit app you can easily perform a multitude of safety and quality inspections on the go from your smartphone or tablet – online or offline. Create checklists for you and your team to easily collect data which can reduce errors and potential complications easily and effectively.
- With our fully customizable form builder, you can create a digital version of your chemical safety audit checklist securely and with ease.
- Lumiform offers 10,000 ready-made templates to choose from so that you can quickly and safely go paperless when conducting these audits.
- With the intuitive and convenient mobile app you and your entire team can perform these audits on the go.
- All results following the audit are automatically summarised in a report and can be sent to responsible personnel on-the-fly.
- Comprehensive and automated analyses help you detect any potential threats and errors fast and effectively and thus allow you to concentrate on improving processes and making the workplace safer and more efficient for all.