From gin to hygiene - keeping hand sanitisers safe
EPA and Safework worked together to stop hand sanitisers catching fire, ensuring that stringent safety guidelines are in place for the sanitisers' safe production and distribution during the rapid increase in demand due to COVID-19.
Inspecting packaging safety before transporting
Hand sanitiser is comprised of 60-80% ethanol, which is highly flammable and gives off highly flammable vapours. It is a class 3 dangerous good (flammable liquids) and must be handled carefully to ensure the liquid and/or vapour cannot find a flame or other source of ignition.
Dangerous goods experts from the EPA's Environmental Solutions Branch collaborated with SafeWork NSW to carry out inspections of hand sanitiser producers including distillers who normally make gin or other craft beverages and were new to the product. Packers and fillers were also provided with safety guidance material during the inspections in April and May.
The safety team identified knowledge gaps in hand sanitiser producers and prepared guidance material on how to safely package hand sanitiser and minimise handling risks. This guidance was passed out to producers through ethanol suppliers and other channels.
“Static electricity is a key source of ignition that needs to be managed, as well as ignition sources from electric motors and switches,” EPA Senior Operations Officer Dave Ingham told EPA Connect.
“When being transported, hand sanitiser must be packaged and labelled correctly so that the risk of fire is minimised and emergency services can identify the fire risk in the case of an incident.”
Dave and fellow EPA operations officer Matt Arkell inspected a total of 24 hand sanitiser producers and worked with them to improve handling and transporting practices. This joint EPA-SafeWork NSW project has helped to ensure that hand sanitiser has become readily and safely available in NSW during COVID-19.