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Controlling spills and leaks from fuel stores

While many rural workplaces store fuels on site to power their machinery, a leak from a bulk storage tank of fuel can create a significant workplace hazard and may be expensive to clean up, particularly if it enters the soil or ground water.

Where fuels are stored, businesses must manage the risk of spills, fires and explosions. These fuels are hazardous chemicals for which the requirements of chapter 7.1 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 apply. These requirements include:

  • having a current safety data sheet on site
  • only storing unleaded and diesel in correctly labelled containers and tanks
  • labelling or identifying hazardous chemicals in pipework,
  • displaying a placard on or near a storage location for emergency services where a container or tank exceeds 250 litres for unleaded or 10,000 litres for diesel.

Where a business (including rural workplaces) stores more than 2500 litres of unleaded or 100,000 litres of diesel, it is considered a manifest quantity workplace (MQW). MQWs are required to keep a manifest at the farm's entrance in a red HAZMAT box for use by emergency services, notify Workplace health and safety Queensland of the hazardous chemicals at the workplace (Form 73), and send the workplace's emergency plan to Queensland Fire and Emergency Services using qfes.EMPlanning@qfes.qld.gov.au.

Fuel tanks and containers should be designed for purpose and have stable foundations and supports free of corrosion or subsidence, adequate ventilation, and be kept free of ignition sources. Ensure fuel is stored separately from buildings or areas sensitive to fire or that could create a fire risk, including houses and work buildings, other hazardous chemicals, workshops where welding and grinding is performed or stock piles of combustible materials.

Bulk tanks and containers should have a spill containment system capable of containing the entire contents of the largest container stored. AS1940 includes recommended ways for controlling spills and leaks from a range of storage situations.

The spill containment systems also should be able to:

  • stop spills from contacting other chemicals that may generate a hazardous reaction
  • manage the clean-up and removal of any leaks or spills, including where they have drained into the soil (where spills are contained within a farm using earth bunds or pits, consider whether fuel spills could contaminate the soil or ground water systems - an impervious spill compound or bund may be required to control these risks)
  • prevent bulk tanks from impact damage by vehicles or mobile plant by using a physical barrier (where provided, bunds may also double as impact protection)
  • ensure firefighting equipment is adequate to the amount and type of fuels stored.

Some newer storage tanks are double-walled and include their own spill containment system, eliminating the need for complex spill containment or bunding requirements. These tanks have a full range of pumping, dispensing and fuel management systems and can be made for both diesel or unleaded, being a cost effective solution to managing these risks.

Further information

For further guidance on flammable liquid use handling and storage, consult the Managing risk of hazardous chemicals in the workplace Code of Practice 2013 (PDF, 1495.51 KB) and AS1940 and visit Industry consultants for hazardous chemicals.

Last updated
27 September 2017

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