Factory fire prompts chemical storage safety blitz

Monday, 03 September, 2018

Factory fire prompts chemical storage safety blitz

Investigations are underway into a factory fire at West Footscray, after the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) said it may have been suspicious.

The fire broke out on Thursday last week in a storage factory that contained the chemicals acetone and acetylene, which are flammable and can be highly explosive.

Wind carried toxic plumes of smoke across Melbourne’s western suburbs, with residents advised to take steps to prevent the smoke from entering their homes. The fire was still smouldering over the weekend.

Following on from the incident, WorkSafe Victoria will lead a blitz on industrial premises in Melbourne’s inner western suburbs to ensure that potentially dangerous chemicals are being stored correctly.

Starting this week, WorkSafe inspectors will conduct visits to ensure site occupiers are complying with regulations about the labelling, storage and handling of chemicals, and have the correct emergency controls and safety equipment in place.

They will be joined by inspectors from the Environment Protection Agency and supported by WorkSafe technical specialists, and those of the MFB.

The inspections will commence in the vicinity of the factory fire on Somerville Rd, Tottenham, and work through the surrounding industrial areas in suburbs including West Footscray and Braybrook.

Where inspectors identify workplaces that are not complying with the regulations they will issue enforcement notices ordering the issue to be rectified.

These inspections are in addition to the 500 strategic inspections WorkSafe will conduct across the state this financial year to assess the storage, handling and transport of dangerous goods. Many of these visits will target smaller sites.

Last financial year, WorkSafe issued more than 1200 enforcement notices requiring duty holders to comply with dangerous goods regulations or potentially face prosecution.

WorkSafe’s Chief of Business Operations, Marnie Williams, said the regulations applied to all sites, not just those considered to be workplaces under occupational health and safety legislation.

“Dangerous chemicals pose a serious risk to the health and safety of everyone in the community. Those risks are the same regardless of whether the chemicals are at a workplace or on a private property with no employees.

“I would urge anyone who is operating any type of industrial site to take stock of the chemicals they have and ensure they are being stored and handled correctly, not just to avoid enforcement action, but for the safety of everyone.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/thanarak

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