Beirut, August 4th 2020.

Chemicals seized from a ship in 2014 because of their known danger and left to rot in a port warehouse. The inevitable happened. Fire broke out and the whole depot blew sky-high. Reportedly, 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were being stored without appropriate precautions.

What are the 3 aspects involved when handling hazardous substances?

1. Storage

Most of us don’t store 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, but if you stock any at all, it’s imperative to have the correct storage. When contaminated by oil, charcoal or other organic substances, this chemical can explode.

Ammonium nitrate is by no means the only chemical that ignites or explodes on contact with other substances. That’s why we supply dedicated drum storage cabinets for indoors and for outdoors. An added bonus for these cabinets is that they can be lifted by forklifts.

Outdoor storage

Some chemicals are best kept in separate purpose-built sheds. Our strong freestanding metal sheds are designed to keep specific chemicals away from the main building. They’re 2m X 2m, and are great for isolating types of chemicals. We also supply 2m X 2m add-ons which allow you to extend the sheds to match your needs.

Worksafe NZ has several guides on the safe handling of dangerous goods. They also give clear guidance on government regulations re storage. This one covers a lot, but you’ll see more on their website:

Every chemical has an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). It’s important that the MSDS instructions are followed to the letter.

2. Containment

Spills are dangerous and must be contained. That’s why we provide spill containment systems. You can take measures before that spill happens.

A containment system makes all the difference in dealing with a contained spill versus watching in horror as a pool of flammable, fume-releasing, toxic or corrosive liquid spreads across the floor. Or if it’s outdoors, seeing it seep into the ground to contaminate the ground water. Liability can be enormous if you’re proved to have polluted a stream, wetland or groundwater.

3. Cleanups

When all else fails…. (and we hope it doesn’t) have the right tools for the job ready for action. We have spill kits designed for every kind of catastrophe. It’s hard to think of just what tools and PPE you need when you’re in the middle of a dangerous and distasteful situation.

We have kits outfitted to clean up:

  • Body fluids
  • Biohazard waste
  • Laboratory spills
  • Biosecurity spills
  • Hydrocarbons (oil slicks) on land or water.

Each kit comes with the appropriate absorbents, containment buckets and bags and of course, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Gloves, masks, eye protection, in fact everything you need to get right onto it!

Meanwhile in Beirut…

The repercussions of the Beirut explosion will be with us for a long time. The search for survivors and treatment of the injured is paramount. Care for displaced and grieving people is ongoing.

Safety is our 1st concern, but we can’t forget the environment.

I’ll quote Gabriel da Silva, a senior lecturer in chemical engineering at the University of Melbourne:

“While the chemicals in the air should dissipate fairly quickly, lingering pollutants can cause problems later, for example if they acidify rain.

If you look at the smoke that came from the blast it’s this kind of blood red colour. That’s because of the nitrogen oxide air pollutants in it”

As responsible stewards of the planet, we know that what we do today will have an effect on tomorrow – many tomorrows.

Dexters offers a free 30 minute appointment to help you store, contain and clean-up chemicals.