From road to shelf: ensuring safe and compliant handling of dangerous goods in your warehouse
- Understand the complexities of storing and handling dangerous goods
- Know where to start when formulating a warehousing dangerous goods strategy
- Discover additional insights about the effective handling of hazardous materials
The complex landscape of dangerous goods
The warehousing sector is growing at a rapid pace. Due to the boom in eCommerce, the number of warehouses all over the world is predicted to exceed 180,000 by 2025(1).In Europe alone, warehouses account for 421 million square meters of space – an area almost the same size as Barbados(2). And being stored and processed within these warehouses are large volumes of goods classified as ‘dangerous’.
Imagine the complexity of these dangerous goods interchanging between various modes of transport and associated warehouses – from truck to rail, rail to barges, etc., often with warehouses storing goods intermediately or for longer periods of time.
Businesses must be aware of their responsibilities for the cargo they are storing, their duty to the surroundings in which the storage facility is located, and, as a matter of priority, to the people who work in the spaces or live nearby.
Governance: storing and handling dangerous goods
The transportation of dangerous goods by road is governed by ADR, but when it comes to storing dangerous goods in warehouses, there’s no homogenous international guidance – the closest equivalent is the EU-led directive Seveso III. Generally, the rules and guidance for storing dangerous goods differ per region or country, and often rely on local authorities to issue licenses and enforce regulations.
This means that there are a huge number of variables for warehouses to monitor in order to keep people and the environment safe, especially when processing dangerous goods that originated from another country or region.
The consequences of non-compliance are severe. First and foremost, a breach could compromise the health and safety of employees and the public, but secondly, mishandling dangerous goods can be extremely damaging to brand reputation, be costly to rectify, and negatively impact the bottom line.
There have been two recent breaches that garnered a lot of public attention due to their severity; the terrible event in Beirut in 2020, where a consignment of Ammonium Nitrate exploded with catastrophic consequences; and a series of explosions at the Port of Tianjin in China in 2015, which was caused by a container of dry nitrocellulose overheating.
“The risk associated with shipping and handling dangerous goods is greater than ever and industry professionals responsible for managing it need the proper technology, training and regulatory access to ensure they are moving goods in a secure, safe, compliant and efficient manner.” - Rob Finn, Vice President of Marketing & Product Management, Labelmaster
Is your warehouse compliant?
Regardless of regional differences, there are 6 common areas to consider when formulating a secure and compliant warehousing strategy, as recently reported by Maersk(3). The experts at NYCE.LOGIC have distilled this down into a quick reference checklist, so you can assess the robustness of your current operations*. The more you can tick off, the more secure and compliant your warehouse is likely to be.
Adherence to applicable standards
- My business is aware of the local, national and/or regional requirements relating to storing and handling dangerous goods
- Teams observe best practices related to storage, operations, security, fire protection, and other safety measures
- Adherence is digitalized and tracked, making it easy to identify any breaches, expired documents, or mistakes
- Prospective employees (including contractors and temporary workers) are subjected to screening, which verifies their qualifications and experience of managing dangerous goods
- New hires undergo safety inductions which include compliance, safety, and dangerous goods management in-line with local regulations
- Safety training is conducted regularly, in-line with any updates made to regulations of dangerous goods management
- All training and safety-related documentation is recorded digitally
- A smoking policy is enforced at all times
Warehouse construction and protection
- The warehouse complies with local building code requirements and fire codes
- Essential building components such as utilities and fire protection systems are maintained to a high standard and monitored for physical damage
- Dangerous goods are stored safely away from heat-producing fittings and appliances
- The warehouse space is adequately lit, and regularly assessed to ensure lighting doesn’t compromise safe working
- If located in an area prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes, a source of emergency power is installed to ensure ongoing safe management of dangerous goods
- If located in an isolated area, a backup water tank is installed to combat fires
- A maintenance program is in place across the entire warehouse, ensuring vital areas such as docks and doors, fixtures and fittings, cargo handling equipment, and storage rack systems are checked for signs of wear and tear<´´
- The type, configuration and height of the storage systems comply with local building codes and standards
- Staff are clear on guidance for acceptable floor loadings, elevation of goods, and types of handling equipment
- The warehouse management team enforces rules on handling of dangerous goods, refueling and equipment maintenance
- Good housekeeping is practiced at all times in the warehouse, and housekeeping ‘self-audits’ are conducted on a regular basis – particularly in areas where dangerous goods and hazardous materials are processed/li>
Dangerous goods storage conditions
- All goods coming into the warehouse follow strict documented processes before being accepted
- Shipments of reactive substances are identified and prioritized, to mitigate the risk of chemical inhibitor degradation
- Staff involved in the day-to-day management of dangerous goods are trained to the highest level
- Segregation protocols are enforced to ensure no cross-contamination of dangerous goods
- Dangerous goods storage areas are signposted and kept clear at all times
- A digitized, ‘single source of truth’ inventory for dangerous goods is updated live and checked regularly by staff
- Packaging for dangerous goods is marked, labeled, and placarded in line with national and international regulations
- Staff are confident and trained in dealing with fires, spillages, or other emergencies relating to dangerous goods
- Emergency equipment and clothing to counter any emergencies are adequate (one per employee), well maintained, and within easy access at all times
- A clear and actionable emergency response plan is in place
- Practices and drills occur regularly, with updates being made to the plan if necessary
- Emergency response personnel are appointed and this is communicated to relevant authorities and third parties
- A dangerous goods inventory statement is shared with the relevant emergency services
- Staff are aware of evacuation signage and other wayfinding graphics
This list is not exhaustive but gives a flavor of how complex it is to manage dangerous goods in the warehouse. Businesses must therefore think carefully about their warehousing tech partners, and only select those built with agility and configurability in mind.
“Those responsible for dangerous goods face an uphill battle – not only in meeting evolving regulations but also in overcoming inadequate infrastructure and training. Technology is critical to the supply chain, and significantly improves efficiency, speed, accuracy, and more.” - Material Handling & Logistics Article
WMS: it’s make or break
To move with the times and protect profits, people, and the environment, it’s vital for businesses to move away from the ‘old’ way of doing things. Manual, tedious data entry and long-winded administration relating to dangerous goods are prone to errors and a risky approach for businesses.
That’s where a Warehouse Management System (WMS)comes in. The right WMS will revolutionize the way you approach compliance. For example, the purpose-built Dangerous Goods & ADR Module within NYCE.LOGIC’s WMS drives efficiency by liberating teams from the lengthy manual admin associated with processing and storing dangerous goods. This cost-efficient risk reduction solution enhances security at every step of the supply chain by employing intuitive automation and monitoring and enables businesses to configure the system to monitor compliance on a local, national, and international level.
“The complexities of compliance, regulatory changes, and the potential risks involved pose significant hurdles for businesses… our new software module for NYCE.LOGIC WMS empowers businesses to effectively manage and mitigate risks associated with hazardous materials.” - Peter Johansson, Head of NYCE.LOGIC
*Kindly note that we make no warranties of any kind regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information in this article and we are not liable for any damages resulting from or related to the information provided.