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Working safely with reusable chemical containers

A recent incident where workers fell ill after exposure to residual herbicide highlights the potential dangers that exist with reusable chemical containers – known as intermediate bulk containers (IBCs).

Workers fell ill after using a truck wash supplied to a site in an IBC which they had noticed had an abnormal smell. An investigation revealed the IBC contained both the truck wash and paraquat – a toxic Poisons Schedule 7 herbicide.

Due to IBC supply issues, the truck wash manufacturer went outside its usual supply chain and did not notice the IBC also had a Gramoxane label on it. Gramoxane contains paraquat and even though they triple rinsed the IBC and cleaned it out with a detergent, the IBC was found by laboratory testing to still have residual levels of the toxic herbicide.

IBCs are refillable and convenient for bulk liquid transport, but there are risks in reusing containers that have previously held toxic chemicals. Reuse should only be for the same product. Reusing chemical containers to store water or feed can expose people or livestock to hazardous chemical residues.

Used IBCs should be returned to an authorised recycler or disposed of in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Services such as DrumMUSTER and Schutz Australia Ticket Service collect, recycle and recondition containers at no cost to the end user. However, you should still:

  • triple or pressure rinse the container, placing the rinsate back into your spray applicators with water reserves
  • ensure containers retain their original labels until they are destroyed and suitably disposed of.

Further Information