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Storage and handling systems

A storage or handling system is a container, or any other plant, associated pipework or safety system, for example a spill containment system or safety relief device, that comes into contact with a hazardous chemical.


A storage and handling system includes things like:

  • bottles
  • packages
  • cylinders
  • drums
  • carboys
  • intermediate bulk containers (IBCs)
  • tanks
  • vessels
  • reaction vessels
  • blending and mixing equipment
  • associated pipework and connections.

Performance characteristics of packages are specified in the Australian Dangerous Goods (ADG) code. Information on the design, construction, location and installation of bulk containers for hazardous chemicals can be found in various Australian Standards. A few examples include:

Safety duties

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure that a system used at their workplace for the use, handling or storage of hazardous chemicals is used only for the purpose for which it was designed, manufactured, modified, installed or supplied.

A PCBU must also ensure that:

  • that all operations in regard to the use of a storage and handling system cause no harm or injury to workers and other persons at their workplace
  • that sufficient information, training and instruction is given to a person who operates, tests, maintains or decommissions a hazardous chemical storage and handling system. Training may include safety features included in the design, required maintenance regimes, instruction manuals, design specifications and safe working parameters (e.g. temperature and pressure).

When a storage and handling system is a bulk container, the container and its associated pipework must have stable foundations and supports, and are secured to the foundations and supports to prevent any movement between the container and pipework or attachments to prevent damage.

Identification of hazardous chemicals

The hazardous chemical contents of storage and handling systems must be identified and specific requirements apply depending on the type of storage and handling system. For example:

  • packages require correct labelling (section 342)
  • bulk containers require tank placards displaying the proper shipping name, UN Number, Hazchem code and dangerous goods class label as specified in the ADG Code (section 350)
  • pipework is identified by a label, sign or another way on or near the pipework (section 343).

Preventative maintenance and integrity testing

Systems for the storage and handling of hazardous chemicals generally require on-going maintenance and testing to ensure that they continue to be safe for the intended use and that they maintain their operational integrity. Such systems include, but are not limited to, reaction vessels, chemical transfer lines, pumps, spill bunding and storage tanks.

To ensure that the integrity of hazardous chemical handling systems is preserved, planned maintenance programmes should be designed and carried out at regular intervals, consistent with manufacturer's instructions or advice provided by other competent persons. If this is not reasonably practicable, inspections and maintenance should be carried out annually.

Examples of preventative maintenance and integrity testing might include:

  • Inspection of glass linings on steel or metal alloy reaction vessels to ensure there are no cracks or holes which might allow contact of incompatible materials with the metal vessel.
  • Regular checking of bursting (rupture) discs and pressure-relief systems on pressure vessels to ensure they have not 'blown' and are of the correct pressure rating for the work being performed. Bursting or rupture discs are safety features for pressure systems that help to prevent damage or injury from over-pressurisation.
  • Checking spill bunding walls for cracks or other signs of wear to ensure that, in the event of a spill, the bunding will not leak or fail.
  • Checking for signs of corrosion or degradation on tanks, pipework and compressed gas fittings.

Preventative maintenance and integrity testing may range from visual inspections through to more sophisticated techniques such as non-destructive testing (NDT) and risk-based inspections (RBI). If preventative maintenance checks show that the integrity of any chemical handling system is in doubt or not performing as it is intended, repair or replacement of the faulty system should be carried out as soon as practicable and before its next use.

More information

Guidance on appropriate levels and frequency of testing and maintenance should be first sought from the systems manufacturer, supplier and/or importer. These duty holders may have more stringent requirements for maintenance and repair regimes than those specified in industry standards. A range of Australian Standards exist for specific systems such as pressure vessels and storage tanks. Examples are provided below: