Massive chemical explosions in China’s Tianjin Container Port and Lebanon’s Beirut Port killed nearly 400 people, including 200 emergency responders, injured thousands, left many more homeless and caused an estimated US$206b in property damage. “Couldn’t happen here,” you say? Here, Barry Dyer, chief executive of Responsible Care NZ looks at the dangers, the compliance and the solutions

Failing to implement safe storage practices, particularly identifying and safely managing non-compatible chemicals puts people and our environment in harm’s way.

It is our collective responsibility to ensure our hazardous substances and dangerous goods (chemical) products are safely managed throughout their life cycle.

All chemicals are hazardous, especially when mismanaged and mishandled. Transport and storage operations require compliance with the voluntary UN Globally Harmonised System for classifying and labelling chemicals (GHS) and the mandatory UN Model Regulations for the Transport of Dangerous Goods (UNRTDG) on land, sea and in the air. These proven international chemical safety safeguards must be well practiced and fairly enforced.

The warehousing of chemicals is highly regulated, requiring specialist knowledge, compliant facilities and a commitment to a process of continuous improvement. Safely managing the demanding requirements is a major challenge for time and resource-poor small and medium sized businesses. Hence the increasing reliance on Third Party Logistics (3PL) providers.

The nine GHS classes of chemicals have both common and specific storage and handling requirements, ranging from segregation, bunding, PPE and ventilation, through to isolation, exposure levels and security measures. Compliant Safety Data Sheets (SDS) together with the label, provide comprehensive information about the product’s hazards, enabling competent workers handling the chemicals to demonstrate best practice, keeping themselves and others safe during the high-risk storage and transport phase.

Pandemic disruption to both international and domestic chemical supply chains means chemicals are increasingly stored by Third Party Logistics (3PL) contractors for protracted periods. It is essential 3PL storage, handling and emergency preparedness are world class, demonstrating unrivalled expertise and performance extending beyond mere compliance.

So, how do you ensure your chemicals are in safe hands?

Looking for a leading chemical logistics partner?

Purpose-built chemical storage facilities are constructed to high standards, providing a safe work environment featuring dedicated bunkers, secondary containment, a fire suppressant system including fire doors, good lighting and ventilation.

The NZ Workplace Exposure Guide (WES) is kept updated with the latest research, providing safe exposure limits reflecting international standards. Beware of substandard facilities and operators which are neither safe nor compliant.

When choosing a quality 3PL chemical warehousing provider, visit the site to ensure:

• The facility has current certification for both premises and specialist handler requirements, together with a compliant Emergency Response Plan (ERP).

• Consider the capacity of the contractor to meet your present and future chemical storage requirements, particularly given continuing supply chain uncertainty and the need for substantial reserve stocks.

• Enquire about the performance and reputation of the 3PL operator.


The rapid rise in border seizures of illicit ‘party drugs’ places additional security measures for ‘chemicals of interest’ which can be used in local illegal drug manufacturing. Responsible Care NZ (RCNZ) in collaboration with NZ Police, can provide appropriate advice regarding suspicious transactions and physical security.

In summary, the performance of your 3PL contractor is also your responsibility as a PCBU, reflecting your commitment to safe chemical management. RCNZ member companies such as Chemfreight lead by example in helping you to safely manage the chemicals we all rely upon to sustain and enhance our quality of life.

Should you wish to manage your own chemical inventory, RCNZ compliance tools include site chemical management assessments, approved codes of practice, specialist training and a 24/7 0800 CHEMCALL emergency advisory service to help you.

Selecting a 3PL provider committed to the pursuit of excellence is a sound, peace-of-mind insurance policy, commensurate with the global chemical industry’s Responsible Care ethic ‘No harm to people or the environment resulting from our products and operations’.

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