Intermediate bulk containers, or IBCs, are in use in a variety of industries. Typically used for the storage and transport of hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals and waste, these reusable, pallet-mounted containers are very handy. However, whenever any liquid is transferred from one container to another, there is the risk of spillage and, even with a dedicated, industrial grade storage unit like an IBC, there is the risk of leakage.
The best way to deal with these spills and leaks is proactively, by installing an IBC bund to immediately collect and contain the spill or leak before it becomes a hazard.
If your business is involved in the storage, transferral or transport of bulk liquid chemicals, then a bund is not only extremely useful, but is often a legal requirement.
With a bund, spills and leaks can be tackled before they become an issue, both to the environment and to personnel, and production can continue seamlessly without having areas blocked off, equipment damaged or shutdown, and staff engaged in cleaning.
Depending on the kind of chemical that you are storing in your IBC, there are regulations in place dictating best practice. For example, in England, oil and fuel storage is covered by the Environment Agency and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs regulations, and specifically state that secondary containment such as a bund is required. Other chemicals have similar rulings that must be taken into account.
The two main types of IBC bund are steel and plastic. Each has different positive features, so it is important to think carefully about not only the type of chemical you are storing, but the environment in which you are storing it and any transportation or mobility requirements.
Steel bunds have superior fire resistance qualities when compared to plastic, and so if you are storing oil, fuel or other flammable chemicals, then steel is more than likely the better option. Additionally, steel has better strength and rigidity properties, making it the preferred option for IBCs that are frequently moved.
On the other hand, plastic bunds are a great option for IBCs that are kept in situ, as they don’t need to be forklift ready, and are also better for storing more corrosive chemicals.
IBC bunds need to be regularly inspected to ensure that they are in proper working order. This can take the form of a visual check; making sure that there are no chemicals already leaking into the bund, ensuring that it is not cracked or damaged and that there are no external blockages. More in-depth integrity inspections include testing for retention and volume, both of which can be achieved by filling the IBC bund with water.
United Kingdom chemical safety legislation requires that bunds are tested for integrity every three years at a minimum.
IBC bunds are all about protection; protection for your staff, for your customers, for your workplace and for the broader environment. They are an easy-to-use, low maintenance and cost-effective way of minimising the risks associated with chemical storage, and should form an integral part of your safety planning.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, in the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) framework (found here), there are two main directives to consider:
A correctly installed and maintained IBC bund fulfils both of these, and lets you rest easy knowing that your personnel are safer and that you are legally compliant.