Flammable liquids are volatile liquids that easily ignite in the presence of an ignition source. To protect the people, property and environment of your organisation, it is very important that you store flammable liquids in a safe and compliant manner.
Safe storage of flammable liquids can be achieved by following the requirements outlined in the Australian Standards. The Australian Standards are not law, but they are accepted as a solution for meeting the legislative requirements surrounding the storage and handling of dangerous goods. The Australian Standard that outlines the requirements for storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids is AS1940-2017. Different sections of this standard outline the requirement for minor storage, package storage, storage in tanks, fuel dispensing and emergency management. In this article we discuss the requirements for minor storage and package storage.
Minor storage of flammable liquids
Section 2 of AS1940 outlines the requirements for storing minor quantities of flammable liquids. This section of the standard outlines the quantities of flammable liquids that are classified as minor storage. For laboratories, quantities of flammable liquids below 50 L per 50 m2 of floor space is classified as minor storage. For commercial buildings 10 L of flammable liquids per 50 m2 of floor space is classified as minor storage.
Minor quantities of flammable liquids only have to be stored in accordance with section 2 of AS1940 and they are exempt from the requirements outlined in other sections of the standard. Requirements for minor storage include:
Minor storage quantities of flammable liquids must be kept well away from any ignition sources that are present in the workplace. An ignition source is any object that will provide flammable vapours with enough heat energy to cause a fire. Ignition sources can come in a number of different forms and they are not always easy to identify. Some examples of ignition sources include:
- Blow torch
- Soldering Iron
- Grinding sparks
- Spark produced from short circuit
Therefore if you have minor quantities of flammable liquids in the workplace, it is very important that you keep them in a well ventilated area and away from any possible ignition sources.
When minor quantities of flammable liquids are stored in the workplace, it is very important that you have the provision to clean up any spills that may occur. Flammable liquid spills must be cleaned up immediately and prevented from coming into contact with any ignition sources, incompatible chemicals or combustible materials (timber or paper). Flammable liquids can have severe effects upon the environment and they must be prevented from flowing into any drains, creeks or waterways. Flammable liquid spills can be safely controlled with a spill kit that contains a non-combustible absorbent such as vermiculite.
Fire protection and warning signage
To protect your organisation from any flammable liquid fires that may occur in the workplace, it is very important that you keep fire extinguishing equipment close to the area where your flammable liquids are being stored. You should have a least one portable fire extinguisher that is suitable for the use with flammable liquid fires, adjacent to the area where the flammable liquids are being stored.
In areas where minor quantities of flammable liquids are being decanted, a sign should be displayed to warn of the fire risk. This sign should display the words:
DANGER - FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS - NO SMOKING - KEEP FIRE AWAY
Quantities of flammable liquids exceeding minor storage
If you are storing more than 10L of flammable liquids per 50 m2 of floor space in a commercial building, it is no longer classed as minor storage and more stringent requirements apply. The requirements for storing packages of flammable liquids is outlined in section 4 of AS1940. This section outlines different requirements for indoor storage and outdoor storage. The requirements for indoor storage and outdoor storage of flammable liquids is outlined below.
Indoor storage of flammable liquids
When flammable liquids are stored indoors, they must be stored in a flammable liquids storage cabinet that meets the requirements outlined in section 4.9 of AS1940. This section outlines the requirements for the cabinet’s:
- Exclusion from ignition sources
- Operation requirements
There are a number of technical construction requirements for flammable storage cabinets to adequately protect people, property and the environment. Some of these construction requirements include; dual skinned walls with a 40mm air gap, self-closing close-fitting doors and a spill containment sump with at least 150mm depth.
The cabinet must also have the correct warning/dangerous goods signage. This includes a “Class 3 Flammable Liquids” diamond and a “No Smoking No Ignition Sources within 3 Metres” sign. Examples of these signs are shown below:
Class 3 Flammable Liquids
No Smoking No Ignition Sources Within 3 Meters
Indoor flammable storage cabinets must also have the provision for ventilation and they must be isolated from all ignition sources by at least 3 metres.
For the safety of those working with flammable liquids, flammable cabinets must be designed in a way that prevents persons from entering the cabinet. Also drums within the cabinet mustn’t be stacked more than 2 high if they have a capacity exceeding 60L.
An example of a flammable liquids storage cabinet is shown below:
Outdoor storage of flammable liquids
There are a number of different ways that flammable liquids can be stored outdoors. However, in all instances, the storage method must meet the requirements outlined in section 4.1 - 4.8 of AS1940 for it to be compliant. The safest and most efficient method for storing flammable liquids outdoors is to use a chemical storage container that has been designed and constructed in full conformance to AS1940. AS1940 outlines specific requirements for chemical storage containers which include:
- Spill containment
- Operation requirements
For a dangerous goods container to be compliant, it must have a spill containment sump that has the capacity to hold at least 100% of the largest package stored within the container as well as 25% of the aggregate capacity of the storage container. For flammable liquids storage containers storing quantities exceeding 10,000L, the spill containment sump must have an extra capacity of 10% of the storage capacity between 10,000L and 100,000L as well as an extra 5% for capacities exceeding 100,000L.
Flammable liquids storage containers must also have a natural ventilation system to keep the concentration of the flammable vapours at a safe working limit. AS1940 states that a natural ventilation system must have at least 2 walls of fixed louvers with at least 50% of their area as openings.
For the safety of those working with flammable liquids, all chemical storage containers must have other operational safety features. For chemical containers storing quantities of flammable liquids exceeding 2000L, a safety shower and eyewash facility that complies with ANSI Z358.1 must be installed next to the storage container.
Packages should also be kept inside the store in such a manner that they are prevented from falling or causing spillage outside the container.
To warn workers of the potential risks associated with flammable liquids, chemical storage containers must also have the correct warning and dangerous goods signage. The required dangerous goods signage includes a “Class 3 Flammable Liquids diamond” and the “No Smoking No Ignition Sources Within 3 Meters” sign.
An example of a compliant flammable liquids storage container is shown below:
To prevent injury to the people and property of your organisation, it is very important that you store flammable liquids in a safe and compliant manner. Safe and compliant flammable liquids storage can be achieved by adhering to the requirements outlined in AS1940-2017. The requirements for minor storage is outlined in section 2, the requirements for outdoor storage is outlined in sections 4.1 - 4.8 and the requirements for indoor flammable liquids storage is outlined in section 4.9. If you would like more information on how to reduce the risks associated with flammable liquids, download our FREE eBook by clicking on the image below.