Safety Alert for Wineries

Alena Titterton writes:

In the wake of the tragic fatalities in the Hunter Valley wine region which occurred on January 17 2008, the WorkCover Authority of New South Wales has issued a safety alert for fire and explosion risks at wineries.

The Safety Alert highlights the need for risk assessments to be carried out that identify the hazards associated with winery operations. As the activities of wineries necessitate the storage of flammable liquids, they are highly hazardous workplaces. In such circumstances, care must be taken with likely ignition sources such as welding, grinding and other hot work, which could cause flammable vapours to ignite.

The WorkCover Safety Alert provides the following useful tips for minimising the risk of fire and explosion. As part of the risk management plan for the workplace, all wineries should ensure that:

  • flammable liquids are stored in compliant containers and facilities according to AS 1940:2004;
  • flammable liquids storage areas are clearly marked with warnings and signs (Hazchem) and containers and tanks are clearly and correctly labelled;
  • adequate natural cross flow ventilation is maintained in buildings that involve storage or processing of flammable liquids;
  • any hot work and smoking restriction zones are clearly identified, sign posted and strictly enforced, including zones restricting mechanical grinding and cutting and other ignition sources. See AS 2430.3.3:2004;
  • hot work such as welding or oxy-cutting, is done according to AS1674.1:1997 which lists comprehensive fire and explosion precautions;
  • flammable or toxic materials have been properly removed before work is carried out on an empty container or vessel;
  • all decanting of flammable liquids is carried out in a well ventilated area;
  • transferring of flammable liquids from storage to the point of use is carried out to avoid spillage;
  • the area around storage and processing is kept free of materials that burn;
  • fire safety equipment is provided and maintained, eg alarm systems, fire extinguishers, hydrants and hoses and fire blankets; and
  • workers are instructed and trained in the storage and handling of dangerous goods, the emergency plan and the use of safety equipment.

To read the Safety Alert, please click here.

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