Brexit: Risks of stockpiling chemicals communicated to businesses
Health and Safety Authority urges businesses to review storage of hazardous substances
‘Apart from the risk of fire, stockpiling could also lead to chemicals being stored in close proximity to other chemicals that are incompatible with one another.’ Photograph: iStock
Companies stockpiling chemicals in preparation for Brexit have been warned about the safe storage of flammable, explosive or toxic chemicals and the risk of breaching regulations for holding higher quantities.
The Health and Safety Authority has urged companies to ensure they meet their legal obligations and review risk assessments for the storage of hazardous chemicals on their sites as they stockpile.
HSA assistant chief executive Yvonne Mullooly said that as the “clock ticks down” to the UK’s departure from the EU on October 31st, the regulator was aware that some companies had been increasing their stocks of raw materials for manufacturing components or finished goods on premises and in warehouses.
The safety regulator said the use and storage of hazardous chemicals presented “one of the highest hazards in warehouses and storehouses”.
Ms Mullooly recognised that it was “understandable” for companies to stockpile chemicals given that “some supply chains will change as a result of Brexit”.
“Apart from the risk of fire, stockpiling could also lead to chemicals being stored in close proximity to other chemicals that are incompatible with one another,” said Ms Mullooly.
“The HSA is strongly urging employers to review their current chemical risk assessments to take account of excess supplies on one side and to ensure that any additional measures are in place.”
Companies are being warned that if storing higher than usual quantities of chemicals, they are increasing the risks of incident or reaching thresholds set under the Control of Major Accident Hazards regulations, EU rules that set more onerous duties on companies the larger the quantities of dangerous substances they hold.
The supply of chemicals, used to make products such as paints and detergents and in goods such as jewellery and shoes, could be disrupted in a no-deal Brexit given the sector’s reliance on imports from the UK.
A survey by the HSA found that 64 per cent of businesses sourced chemicals from the UK, while 27 per cent per cent sourced chemicals from Northern Irish suppliers.