Staying safe in a workplace that handles oil drums is very important. You should know when it is appropriate to use manual handling and when handling equipment might be the better decision when moving drums.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know to ensure the safety of your colleagues and your workplace.

What is an oil drum?

An oil drum is a container that is mainly used to transport or store dangerous or hazardous goods, usually in liquid or powder form. It can be made from steel, plastic, or paperboard. The construction of the drum needs to meet the safety regulations applicable for the contents.

Why is drum safety important?

Safety in warehouses and industrial spaces is critical. Complying with all the relevant regulations around oil drums not only ensures the safety of all workers but also helps to reduce downtime and possible compensation claims in the event of an accident.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) outlines the guidelines for handling oil drums. Following these requirements will keep your staff safe from spilled contents, cuts, fractures, pulled muscles, slips and crushing accidents.

Tips to improve safety when moving oil drums

When you are moving heavy drums, you should keep in mind whether the drum is fully or partially filled. This is because contents can shift during transportation making the drum unstable and awkward to move. Follow the tips below to ensure you are completely safe when moving a drum.

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Use drum dollies

Dollies are portable platforms mounted on castors, used to move heavy goods such as oil drums around the worksite quickly and easily. They reduce the likelihood of manual handling injuries for the person handling the drums.

Oil drum dollies have a simple yet strong design that makes them ideal for use in workplaces. You can find ones in a range of materials from plastic for lighter weights, to metal versions that can carry loads of up to 500kg. They are also very easy to keep clean if any oil or chemical is spilt on them by simply using a cloth to wipe them down.

Due to the frequency with which drum containers need to be moved around in sectors like oil and gas, it makes sense to invest in drum dollies, which are extremely well suited for these fast-paced, safety critical environments.

Wear PPE

As when handling any type of hazardous material or being exposed to a dangerous environment, it’s really important to wear the correct personal protective equipment (PPE). When working with oil drums make sure to supply the appropriate gloves, eye protection, respirators and head protection to everyone involved. Then they should follow the specific precautions required for the drum’s contents.

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Inspect the condition of the drum

You should always check the exterior of a drum before beginning to handle or move it. To do this properly, look at all sides of the barrel to check for leaks and the integrity of the cover. If the drum is made of metal, look for potential loose parts or sharp corners that could cause injury when handling.

Ensure the drumhead is secure and tight against the top of the drum and inspect the drum seals, if it has any. If these are faulty, they could leak and expose surrounding workers to the oil or chemicals inside during the move.

If an oil drum is found to be leaking it requires immediate clean-up following the guidelines outlined by the contents’ material safety data sheets (MSDS).

Moving an empty drum

Although it may seem that moving an empty or partially empty drum is easier as it’s lighter, that is not the case. An empty drum can easily roll away from you and cause others to trip and fall, or cause damage to other goods.

If you do need to roll a drum, make sure you have gloves on to improve traction and that you are in full control. The best way to lift an empty drum is to squat, pick it up and then straighten your legs. This protects your back. However, if a mechanical aid (such as a drum dolly) is available it is always best to use it.

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