Brexit-related storage of additional chemicals prompts safety concerns

Irish firms, who may be increasing their stocks of chemicals ahead of the Brexit deadline on October 31st, are reminded to take the necessary steps to ensure all chemicals are stored safely.

Speaking on behalf of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) today (October 10th), Assistant Chief Executive Yvonne Mullooly has urged companies to fulfil their legal obligations and review their chemical risk assessments for storage of hazardous chemicals on their sites.

“As the Brexit clock ticks down, we are aware that some companies have been increasing their stocks of raw materials for the manufacturing of components or finished goods on premises and warehouses across Ireland.

“There is an understandable reason for this, as some supply chains will change as a result of Brexit.

“If storing higher than usual quantities of chemicals, employers are increasing their risk of incidents or of reaching thresholds under the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations.

“The use and storage of hazardous chemicals, which may be flammable, explosive or toxic in nature, presents one of the highest hazards in warehouses and drumstores.

“Apart from the risk of fire, stockpiling could also lead to chemicals being stored in close proximity to other chemicals that are incompatible with one another.

“The HSA is strongly urging employers to review their current chemical risk assessments to take account of excess supplies on site, and to ensure that any additional control measures are in place,” she said.

Reminding employers to also be aware of their duty to report all chemical incidents, Ms Mullooly said: “If an employee is injured as a result of a chemical exposure incident, or if there is an uncontrolled or accidental release of a hazardous substance on site, employers must report the incident to the Authority using our online accident and dangerous occurrences reporting system here.

“Non-fatal accidents or dangerous occurrences must be reported within 10 working days of the event,“ she added.

The HSA’s safety message comes ahead of European Week for Safety and Health at Work coordinated by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).

Beginning on October 21st, the week is a highlight of EU-OSHA’s ‘Healthy Workplaces’ campaign which this year continues on the theme of managing dangerous substances at work.

Further information on how to manage dangerous substances in the workplace can be found on the campaign website at www.healthy-workplaces.eu or on the HSA’s website at www.hsa.ie/chemicals.

Companies are also encouraged to obtain up to date information regarding the trading and use of chemicals in preparation of Brexit from www.hsa.ie/brexit.

See also HSA guidance on Storage of Hazardous Chemicals in Warehouse and Drum Stores here and Control of Major Accident Hazard (COMAH) Regulations here.

For any queries relating to the safe supply, use and management of chemicals, contact the HSA chemicals helpdesk on chemicals@hsa.ie or 1890 289 389.

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