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Drum Handling

Drums that contain oils or other liquids pose several risks within the workplace. The drums themselves can be heavy and difficult to move and as a general rule the contents are likely to be hazardous and/or flammable. This means having the correct procedures and provisions for their management and movement is incredibly important.

Using a truck, cart or other piece of apparatus designed for moving drums is essential – not all manual handling equipment will be suitable. When dispensing liquids into smaller containers a safety pump or tap is generally the preferred method. Tipping barrels should only be undertaken if using specific apparatus that assists in the process. To avoid contamination risks, drums must be stored in a purpose-built unit or placed on a pallet or tray that includes secondary containment provision which will collect any leaks or spills.

To learn more about the importance of COSHH risk assessments for drum handling, how much drum storage you require and other helpful safety tips; check out our useful buying guide.

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Safe Drum Handling: Buying Guide


The Importance of Risk Assessment for Liquid Storage Containers and Drums


In order to minimise the hazards associated with working with drums it is important to carry out a risk assessment before any tasks are undertaken. Identifying where and how issues may arise will influence how best to operate within your site and what equipment you require.

Your situation and the materials in question will play a large part in where you store drums. Steps should be taken to minimise unnecessary movement and they must not be placed where they could become damaged by impact. If this is not possible, collision protection should be used.

Drums should always be kept in or on a specialist storage facility. It is imperative that wherever they are held, secondary containment is part of the provision. If drums containing different liquids will be stored together you must make sure any spillages or leaks will not react adversely with each other. Because of this you may find you need multiple storage products even if the amounts of each liquid are small.

Never move a drum using equipment which is unsuitable for the purpose – even when the distance is short. Specialist drum or barrel handling solutions such as purpose built trucks and carts should be used. To minimise the impact of any accidents that occur during movement, some handling equipment also usefully features inbuilt sump provision.

Filling, dispensing or working with the contents of a drum are the main ways hazards can prevent themselves. Poor technique, incorrect apparatus and inadequate spill response supplies can all be a major contributor to incidents at this stage. Consider exactly what will need to be done and ensure all eventualities are covered by your risk assessment.

Before carrying out any kind of work with drums all staff should be properly trained on relevant storage, handling and operation procedures. Ensure they know the different types of hazard and how to identify them using signage and training equipment. Employees should also be well aware of how to avoid accidents and what to do in the unlikely event of one occurring. Dealing directly with hazardous substances often requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and your risk assessment will likely dictate the same. Staff should know exactly what to wear, when to wear it and how to wear it.

As well as PPE you will also require apparatus for emptying or filling drums, such as funnels or chemical pumps. Make sure any equipment used is suitable for the liquid in question and properly cleaned and maintained.

When drums are being moved or used, having appropriate spill control to hand is a must. Aside from the larger capacity storage solutions that contain sumps there are a number of small scale items that can be placed under drums to stop contaminants from spreading. For example, spill trays can be sized to fit one large or several small containers and berms can be placed under drums almost anywhere. Should an accident occur, items such as spill barriers, drain covers and sorbents should be situated near the work area so they can be used at a moment’s notice. Spill control procedure tests should be carried out (similar to regular fire drills) and any consumable items used must be replaced immediately after use.

When all aspects of the tasks requiring the use of drums have been considered you will be able to create a useful risk assessment and apply its findings to come up with an operating procedure that minimises risk and maximises safety.

FAQs


How do I determine how much drum storage I need?


Strict government rules outline what the capacity of any sump or bund on your site should be. Matching the amount you have to store to these regulations will allow you to calculate the amount of storage provision you need. For single containers the secondary containment unit must hold 110% of the capacity of the container. Where multiple containers are stored the unit must accommodate 25% of the combined capacity of all containers. Additionally, be sure not to store chemicals which may react with other together.

How do I know a drum is safe to work with?


Drums should be marked with “UN” to show they meet the necessary design standards for safe use. Additionally, before a drum is used you must inspect it for damage and any signs of deterioration. If a drum is full, it is important there is no swelling or bulging which would indicate that structural integrity is not as it should be. All drums containing hazardous substances should be marked using globally recognised labels which show the nature of any potential dangers.

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