Used and empty drums in the workplace are a very common occurrence, however, many industrial environments fail to understand the significant threat they pose to health and safety. As a result, precautionary measures can sometimes be overlooked.
Even when a drum appears to be empty, hazardous chemicals can remain inside for many years. Grinding, welding or cutting the drum itself, on or near it poses a substantial threat to employee safety and causes a serious fire hazard. Drums once containing petrol, diesel and other types of fuel are considered to be dangerous. You also need to consider both flammable and non-flammable liquids like thinners, anti-freeze, cyanide, oxidisers and corrosive waste. Under ADR regulations, an empty drum is classified as if it were full – being empty doesn’t change the classification.
A number of accidents involving empty chemical drums have occurred in Ireland and throughout Europe causing fatal and near fatal injuries. Facilities not acting with due-diligence regarding empty drum disposal are exposing themselves to employee injuries, potential lawsuits and environmental repercussions.
Inside the drum, you have traces of a potentially hazardous material, evaporated and mixed with air at high pressure. This can be ignited by sparks from an angle grinder or plasma torch creating a high-pressure blast. Flames can cause potentially severe burns or the top and bottom sections of the drum can act as projectiles. Travelling at high speeds they can cause serious injuries to the person cutting the drum or people nearby.
Another serious issue can occur if you have a number of these drums in your facility, a small fire or accident can get very serious, very fast. Environmental issues may also arise if you are storing drums containing traces of hazardous materials, this can leak out and lead to contamination of soil and the surrounding area. Given the hazards, these situations should always be avoided. Further details are given below on how to store your drums safely.
If you answered yes to any of the above, or you are unsure, it is imperative that you exercise caution and follow correct procedures for drum disposal.
You cannot reuse a drum that contained hazardous materials. These drums need to be cleaned and decontaminated. If you are cleaning drums on site be careful what you do with the waste water. This cannot be poured down a drain or disposed of with regular waste. You need to store the waste safely and have it taken away by environmental experts.
To learn more about working safely with hazardous waste, you can read our hazardous waste packaging best practice guide here.
Always approach the storage of used and empty drums in the workplace with a safety-first mindset. Enva offer a fully licenced facility to clean or dispose of empty drums or IBCs depending on the condition. Our experienced operators will assess the contamination and provide a fully tailored handling solution. Drum disposal should not be an afterthought and needs to be carefully considered with an environmentally friendly plan put in place. Find out more about our contaminated packaging services.