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Pool chemical retailers FAQs

Find out answers to frequently asked questions about pool chemical retail hazards.

The following frequently asked questions are applicable to retail situations (e.g. pool shops, hardware shops or other general retail shops) where pool chemicals are sold and hazardous chemicals are in retail pack sizes in limited aggregate quantities.

More stringent practices may be applicable for large storages such as stock rooms, warehouses and dedicated storage locations. Relevant Australian Standards are available and should be consulted for such storage and handling situations.

Under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (the WHS Regulation), there is no limit as such. The maximum quantity is determined by the design and layout of the workplace, and certain duties will apply depending on the quantity. For example, the maximum amount of a liquid product will be influenced by the spill containment system available (i.e. the bund size).

If the prescribed placarding quantity is exceeded (e.g. 250L hydrochloric acid or 1000L hypochlorite solution), a placard for hazardous chemicals will be required. If the quantity is exceeded (e.g. 2,500L hydrochloric acid or 10,000L hypochlorite solution), the workplace will have to have a manifest and notify Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ). These prescribed quantities are not limits, but triggers for additional actions.

AS/NZS 3833:2007 The storage and handling of mixed classes of dangerous goods in packages and Intermediate bulk containers does provide tailored requirements for specified maximum storage quantities and maximum pack sizes for retail situations (e.g. display areas), recognising a reduced risk profile in comparison to a dangerous goods package store.

AS 3780-2008 The storage and handling of corrosive substances recommends that the bund capacity should be at least 110 per cent of the capacity of the tank. That is, at least 2200L. The bund wall must also be at least half the distance of the tank height away from the tank. If this is not achieved, splash barriers can be used over fittings or the tank to ensure any leaks and spills are directed into the bund. WHS Regulation requires that leaks and spills are contained and managed safely.

A shower curtain does provide a barrier, but depending on the material it is made from, it may not perform well in the long term. Pool liners have been used because of their heavy duty construction and resistance to chemical degradation. Rigid structures (e.g. clear polycarbonate sheeting) can also be used. The choice is influenced by whether the tank is located indoors or outdoors. Splash barriers for outdoor tanks must be resistant to UV degradation and wind. All splash barriers must be effective in aensuring any leaks and spills are directed into the bund and allow access for visual inspection and maintenance. If tanks are of a seamless construction, focus on the tank penetrations and fittings where the leaks are most likely to occur.

Bunds are required to be impervious and resistant to chemical attack. To ensure a masonry bund (e.g. block wall) achieves this, an impervious membrane should be applied to protect the structure against absorption of spilled product into the porous brickwork. This includes any other structures within the bund, such as a tank stand. These structures need to be protected to ensure effective long term performance, and assist with clean up. For example, steel bolts and frames will readily corrode and rust without suitable protection against corrosive liquids. Chemically resistant epoxy and fibreglass resins are suitable coatings; check with the product supplier for suitability and chemical resistance.

The WHS Regulation has requirements for safety equipment, which must be maintained and readily accessible to persons at the workplace. Australian Standards recommend bulk storage tanks have a safety shower and eye wash that complies with AS 4775-2007 Emergency eyewash and shower equipment. They should be located not too close to the hazard, but not too far away, and not difficult to get to.

As a guide, a safety shower installation should be within seven metres, but no closer than two metres from the tank. Ready access to a safety shower and eye wash installation benefits not only staff in the event they are splashed with a hazardous chemical, but other persons, such as a bulk delivery driver undertaking product transfers.

The WHS Regulation requires the risk of a chemical or physical reaction to be identified. Both these products are Packaging Group II products and Australian Standards recommend that such products be kept apart from other products by at least 5 m to prevent dangerous reactions. This distance can be reduced with the use of physical barriers (e.g. rigid impervious splash barriers) that ensure no interaction with incompatible products can occur. Separate spill compounds may be required to ensure a physical separation exists between highly reactive combinations such as acids and hypochlorite solution. Dedicated compounds ensure leaks and spills are contained in the immediate area and cannot spread to other areas where incompatible products may be located.

The WHS Regulation requires the risk of a chemical or physical reaction to be identified. Calcium hypochlorite is classified as a dangerous good Class 5 Oxidizer (Division 5.1) Packing Group II product, and is reactive with many products including water/moisture, dust, dirt and grime. Packing Group II products must be kept 5m away from incompatible products if they react dangerously (e.g. acids). Physical barriers that prevent interactions may be used to reduce this distance.

In the retail display area, retail packs of calcium hypochlorite should be separated by at least 1 meter from other incompatible products that are solids. Additionally liquids such as liquid pool chlorine, clarifiers, acids, paints, and algaecides should not be kept on shelves above the dry pool chlorine.

Regardless of the separation applied for storage, always be mindful to not mix residues when cleaning up as some product combinations are highly reactive. Instances have occurred where residues of different 'white powders' along with extraneous material have been swept up together and disposed into a waste container causing a fire from the chemical reaction.

The Building Code of Australia specifies the minimum fire protection requirements for a building. However, when chemicals are stored, additional fire protection may be required for the types and quantities at the location. The WHS Regulation has requirements for fire protection and fire fighting equipment for hazardous chemicals which must account for the fire load and compatibilities of products.

Australian Standards recommend a minimum of one dry powder or carbon dioxide-type fire extinguisher for putting out fires in mechanical or electrical equipment, and at least a water or foam type fire extinguisher or a hose reel. A hose reel is recommended for oxidizers in excess of 250kg. In some cases (e.g. calcium hypochlorite), it may be necessary to drench and thoroughly wet the oxidizing agent, in order to prevent its dangerous decomposition. Extinguishers, other than water-type, are intended to put out fires in electrical or mechanical equipment, but will not provide enough cooling to prevent decomposition of the oxidizing agents or re-ignition of any combustible materials present.

Further information on general considerations for an appropriate level of fire protection for oxidizers is provided in AS 4326-2008 The storage and handling of oxidizing agents, section 12: Fire protection.

The WHS Regulation has requirements for placards. If you exceed the placard quantity for a specified type (e.g. Division 5.1 oxidizer or Class 8 corrosive), you are required to erect the appropriate placards in a prominent location. This will require an outer warning placard, or 'HAZCHEM' placard at the entrance/s (where emergency services may enter) to the building, along with the specific hazardous chemical placards for the storage areas.

If a tank is present, the tank placard will be required on the tank. Where placard quantities are stored in packages, the relevant hazardous chemical placard (i.e. coloured diamond) must be erected adjacent to the storage area. When inside a building, the relevant placard will also need to be erected at the entrance to any room or walled section of the building where stored. This may mean they are erected at the front and rear of the shop if there is direct access to the storage areas.

The WHS Regulation requires that where personal protective equipment (PPE) is required to minimise the risk to health and safety, that the PPE provided to the workers be suitable for the work, be maintained, and be used by the worker.

Guidance is provided in the product's safety data sheet (SDS), and includes:

  • chemical resistant goggles
  • PVC gloves
  • cotton long sleeve shirt
  • trousers
  • enclosed footwear.

When handling corrosive liquids, wear trousers or overalls outside of boots, to avoid spills entering boots. Consider the use of a PVC apron for added protection against splashes. Instances have occurred where splashing has lead to serious injuries. For example, socks and footwear becoming contaminated with hypochlorite solution and not immediately tended to and washed. Such a delay has lead to serious skin degradation and hospital treatment. Wearing such PPE requires discipline, serving as a final level of protection against a potentially dangerous exposure. The process used to dispense hypochlorite solution will influence the likelihood and consequences of being splashed. The use of engineering controls, such as a dedicated dispensing apparatus, will help to minimise the risks.

The product's SDS provides information on managing spills. Materials such as dry sand or proprietary inert absorbents (e.g. kitty litter) can be used to collect and dispose spilled liquid. Do not apply any acidic materials (e.g. sodium hydrogen sulphate) as this will lead to a dangerous reaction and a rapid release of toxic chlorine gas. Specific information on suitable available absorbents and neutralisers can be provided by your supplier.

You may decant into other containers, provided they are fit-for-purpose chemical containers and labelled appropriately, clearly identifying the contents.

Workers must have access to a safety data sheet (SDS) whenever they handle or use hazardous chemicals in a work activity.

There is no maximum permissible weight limits for lifting under the WHS Regulation. This is because there are many factors that impact on the risk - not just the weight of the item being handled. Large package sizes (e.g. >30kg) are problematic for ergonomic reasons and should be avoided. Heavy packages combined with awkward movements pose a high risk of an injury. The size of the largest package is generally limited by manufacturers to 10kg, to assist with handling and minimise handling injuries. Tasks should be risk assessed and mechanical handling equipment provided whenever possible to minimise the risk of handling injuries.

Package limits are specified for listable chemical products under the Listable Chemical Product (Home Swimming Pool and Spa Products) Standard 2007. When packaged, liquid products must not exceed 25L, and solid products not exceed 25kg.

Listable chemical products include:

  • sodium hypochlorite
  • calcium hypochlorite
  • lithium hypochlorite
  • sodium dichloroisocyanurate
  • trichloroisocyanuric acid.

Australian Standards recommend that storage areas have adequate natural or mechanical ventilation to disperse any dusts, mists or vapours. If a closed cupboard is to be used, it should be provided with air flow to help prevent the often overpowering chlorine odours associated with storage of chlorine products. Consider open designs and, if security is an issue, consider use of mesh doors that can be locked to aid ventilation.

No. The bund is there to contain the contents of the tank if a leak occurs. Extraneous materials take up the available volume being relied on to retain the maximum spill size. Keeping other material in the bund may lead to poor housekeeping practices and interferes with visual inspection of the bund area. Such a practice also may lead to incompatible products being kept in the bund.

The WHS Regulation limits the quantities of identified materials/goods that can be stored and handled at a non-workplace before the hazardous chemical requirements apply (e.g. labelling of containers, register, safety signs, placarding, spill containment, protecting against damage, fire protection, and installation and operation of tanks). That is, a non-workplace (e.g. domestic residence) can store and handle up to the quantities specified in Table 328 and be exempted from Part 7.1 requirements under the WHS Regulation. The limits for pool chemicals are:

  • Pool chlorine and spa sanitising agents 100kg or L
  • Hypochlorite solution (pool chlorine) 100L
  • Others including corrosives(acid) 100L

Once these thresholds are exceed, all provisions of Part 7.1 in the WHS Regulation will apply in addition to general provisions.

Australian Standard AS 3780-2008 The storage and handling of corrosive substances provides guidance on limits for corrosive substances as minor storage of 12.5kg/L of Packing Group II and 50kg/L of Packing Group III chemicals within the dwelling, and 25kg/L of Packing Group II and 100kg/L of Packing Group III corrosive chemicals at the location. If exceeding these quantities, this standard recommends a dedicated storage installation, where specific design features are provided.

Additionally, consider the implications for any insurance policy related to the location where quantities of hazardous chemicals are stored. If storing any quantity of hazardous chemicals in excess of normal household use requirements, there may be implications under any applicable insurance policy.

There is no specific law that says a customer's container cannot have a tap installed before refilling. However, it must be recognised that this introduces an additional risk during transport, as it provides another potential leak point. Taps on containers protrude from the container and can be readily damaged during transit if not secured properly, or can leak from an ill-fitting thread. A leak can cause significant damage and costs if repair to a customer's vehicle is needed. Hence, shops may have their own policy to not fill such containers, to reduce the risk to the customer and their vehicle during transportation and handling once it leaves the shop.

A vented cap should be provided for chlorine drums (if not already fitted with one) to allow release of gaseous products as the chlorine product ages. Without the ability to release gas, an over-pressurisation (i.e. rupture) of the container can occur.

Yes. It is the responsibility of the shop to ensure that any container is fit-for-purpose and is properly labelled prior to it being filled. The label for a customer supplied container must have the product name (e.g. hypochlorite solution).

There is no maximum age specified in the WHS Regulation. Consult container suppliers and manufacturers regarding container life. Look out for signs of UV degradation, embrittlement or crazing or discolouration of the plastic. Condition of containers is affected by the way they are stored and handled. Non-UV stabilised containers (e.g. typically translucent type) stored outside by customers will lead to premature aging of the container. A visual check for signs of damage and aging should always be conducted to help ensure the container remains fit-for-purpose.

There is no specific requirement in the WHS Regulation to maintain a dated written record of this. However, WHSQ recommends that a retailer record who was trained and when, along with the content of the training, instruction and supervision. This will be relevant to safe work procedures (e.g. chlorine dispensing) and emergency response actions.

References

Legislation

Codes of practice

Information papers

Australian Standards

The following standards are available from SAI Global, publishers of Australian Standards:

More information

Further information is available in the Guide for pool chemical retailers (PDF, 1.52 MB) .