Best safety practices for storing and handling lubricants at mine sites

Total drums on a pallet

One of the more challenging tasks to maintain on a mine site is the safe storage and handling of lubricants and greases.

Total’s safety culture

At Total, safety is a core value and an integral part of the group’s processes. A deeply instilled culture of safety leads to reliable procedures and operations, and ensures sustainable growth, productivity and profitability.

The most effective storage method for your operation

The method of lubricant storage (bulk, container, drum, can) is dependent upon the volumes stored, the consumption rate of lubricants, supplier delivery frequency and also maintenance habits.

Making the right choice of containers will avoid having too much stock that leads to capital costs and reduces the risk of exceeding the expiry date of the products. An effective storage method also limits the risk of pollution and degradation of the product during its storage time.

Minimising risks and reducing costs

Total Lubricants always recommends following the FIFO (first in, first out) approach when it comes to storage, and to check the manufacture date to ensure the oldest products are being used first.

This approach helps reduce inventory obsolescence costs by ensuring packaged product are utilised prior to reaching the end of the product life.

Wherever possible product rationalisation can be considered while still following the requirements of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Lubrication engineers, John Saunders and Clay Calk in their article, The Benefits of Lubricant Consolidation, described the associated costs as a result of decrease in physical inventories of between 6 per cent and 19 per cent of the total cost of lubricants.

Reducing the number of inventories, also helps to minimise the risk of using the incorrect product, as well as lower storage costs and capital risks.

Types of storage and associated handling

The types of storage include bulk storage, stacking on pallets and shelf storage. Each of these methods is intended to ensure storage under the best conditions of cleanliness and safety.


Metal or plastic tanks should be chosen. Tanks needs to be labelled in accordance with Australian Standards legislation and include the Tank identification number, flow in and flow out and product name so it’s clearly visible to all which tank is for which product.

Pallet stacking

The maximum storage height for pallet stacking must be determined with consideration for the safety of handlers. It is recommended not to store more than two pallets high. For pallets stored in racking, it needs to be appropriately labelled with weight restrictions and drums should be strapped when above two pallets high.

Shelf storage

Shelves for storing at height must be designed and installed to prevent falls.

Oil drums must be stored preferably horizontally on their sides with the two bungs aligned horizontally. This also makes it easier to identify and read the product labels.

Moderate storage temperatures should be maintained at all time. Indoor storage of lubricants is recommended, but if lubricants need to be stored outdoors, keep track of lubricant consumption strictly and replenish stock in a timely manner to minimise exposure to external conditions.

In the case of greases, storage in drums in a vertical position is recommended to keep the original seals around the drum tight to prevent potential leaks and/or contamination.

Whenever oil drums need to be stored upright, sheltered storage is preferred. If it is not possible, individual drum covers is highly recommended to avoid possible contamination from dust or the elements such as rain or snow. This approach of improved lubricant cleanliness helps extend component life.

Safety equipment

For all lubricants and grease storage, it is essential that appropriately sized spill kits, fire extinguishers, eye wash and shower facilities are readily available in the event of an emergency, along with easy access to the latest updated Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each product stored onsite.

Total drums on a pallet

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