What is the purpose of a flammable storage cabinet?
May 17, 2018

What is the purpose of a flammable storage cabinet?

Walter Ingles Walter Ingles

Of the nine classes of dangerous goods, class 3 flammable liquids are the most commonly used dangerous goods. Flammable liquids are found in almost every workplace. One reason why flammable liquids are used so frequently is because they readily combust and release energy. This energy can be used to power engines in power stations, automobiles, earth movers, generators and many other machines. Flammable liquids are also the vital ingredients in many cleaning agents, thinners, solvents, adhesives, polishes, waxes, paints and varnishes.

Flammable liquids are extremely useful in our modern society, however their dangerous chemical and physical properties also pose a number of risks upon people, property and the environment of your organisation. Flammable liquids are liquids that give off flammable vapours at temperatures below 60 °C. If these flammable vapours come into contact with an ignition source, they will ignite and cause a severe fire. Also, large quantities of flammable vapours in the workplace can cause people to asphyxiate and pass out.

To mitigate the risks associated with flammable liquids, they must be stored in a safe and compliant manner. This can be achieved by keeping all flammable liquids in a compliant flammable storage cabinet.

What is the purpose of a flammable storage cabinet?

The Australian Standard AS/NZS 2243.1  - Safety in laboratories: Part 10, outlines the purpose of chemical storage cabinets.

Chemical storage cabinets” is the broader term used for all safety cabinets used for the storage of dangerous goods. “Flammable storage cabinets” is the term used for safety cabinets that have been specifically designed and manufactured for the storage of class 3 flammable liquids.

Section 3.3 of AS/NZS 2243.1 states:

Chemical storage cabinets for the storage of dangerous goods are intended;  

  • To protect the contents against damage
  • To provide segregation between incompatible chemicals
  • To contain spills
  • In the case of fire, to allow at least 10 minutes for escape of persons or use of firefighting equipment.

We will now explain how the features of a flammable storage cabinet achieve these four critical functions.


Protect contents within the cabinet against damage

When flammable liquids are used in the workplace, it is important to ensure that their packaging doesn’t get damaged and the contents within the packages aren’t contaminated. If packages of flammable liquids are damaged, it can cause the flammable liquids to leak out into the workplace. When flammable liquids are uncontained, they disperse flammable vapours more readily. If these flammable vapours come into contact with an ignition source, they will ignite and cause a severe fire that would harm people and property. A flammable liquids storage cabinet that has been manufactured in full conformance to AS1940 will have a dual skinned sheet steel construction. This heavy duty construction will protect the contents within the cabinet from being damaged by external moving objects.

If contaminated flammable liquids were used in a machine or manufacturing processes, the machine or the end product of the manufacturing process would become damaged. This damage could cost the business a lot of money as the result of downtime and loss of machinery. This risk can be mitigated by storing flammable liquids in a compliant flammable liquids storage cabinet. Flammable storage cabinets are fully enclosed and they have self-closing, close-fitting doors that keep out any contaminants that could potentially mix with the flammable liquids.  

Provide segregation between incompatible chemicals

Like most classes of dangerous goods, class 3 flammable liquids are incompatible with a number of other classes. Some dangerous goods classes that are incompatible with flammable liquids include:

Incompatible substances are substances that are likely to increase risk to people, property and the environment when mixed. If incompatible substances mix, it could result in a violent chemical reaction. Violent chemical reactions can produce explosions and the rapid evolution of heat and pungent toxic gases.

To avoid the risk of violent chemical reactions, incompatible substances must be safely segregated. This can be achieved by separating incompatible substances by certain distances or storing incompatible chemicals in separate safety cabinets.

Flammable storage cabinets are extremely useful for segregating flammable liquids from other classes of dangerous goods in confined spaces. Segregating flammable liquids from other classes of dangerous goods can be very impractical in confined spaces because the required segregating distance for flammable liquids from other incompatible substances is around 3-5m.

Provide spill containment

Flammable liquids spills are another risk associated with the storage of flammable liquids in the workplace. A flammable liquids spill can have many negative implications in the workplace. These negative implications include:

  • Risk of slip and fall injuries
  • Increased dispersion of flammable vapours which increases the risk of:
    • Workplace fires
    • Asphyxiation
  • Environmental pollution

Storing class 3 flammable liquids in flammable storage cabinets decreases the risk of these negative implications occuring. AS1940, which is the standard that outlines the requirements for the storage and handling of flammable liquids, states the flammable liquids storage cabinets must have a liquid-tight spill containment sump in the bottom of the cabinet that is at least 150mm deep. This spill containment sump catches any flammable liquids spills that may occur inside the cabinet, and stops them from entering the workplace.

Fire protection

If a fire incident occurred in your workplace and it came into contact with flammable liquids, the flammable liquids would instantly ignite and intensify the rate of fire spread. This kind of incident would decrease the chance of workers escaping the fire.

To prevent flammable liquids from instantly igniting in the event of a workplace fire, flammable liquids must be stored in flammable storage cabinets that comply with AS1940. AS1940 outlines the specific requirements for the design and construction of flammable storage cabinets. One of these specific design requirements includes:

  • Double walled sheet steel construction for the roof, walls, door and floor of the cabinet.

This double walled sheet steel construction provides the cabinet with a certain amount of insulation. If a fire erupted in the workplace, the design and construction requirements of AS1940 are intended to provide the cabinet with a 10 minute fire rating. This provides people in the workplace with time to escape the fire, or to use fire suppression equipment.  

Next Steps

As outlined above, the purpose of flammable storage cabinets are:

  • To protect the contents within the cabinet against damage
  • To provide segregation between flammable liquids and incompatible chemicals
  • To contain flammable liquid spills
  • In the case of fire, to allow at least 10 minutes for escape of persons or use of firefighting equipment.

Over all, the use of flammable liquids storage cabinets decreases the risk that flammable liquids pose upon the people, property and environment of your organisation. Using flammable liquids storage cabinets is a great start to reducing workplace risk. The ultimate solution is to implement a methodology for managing the risk that incorporates each facet of the hierarchy of controls. If you would like more information on how to reduce the risk associated with flammable liquids, download our FREE ebook by clicking on the image below.

How to reduce the risk of flammable liquids in the workplace

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Adviser. He loves helping business reduce the risk that Dangerous Goods pose upon their employees, property and the environment through safe and compliant dangerous goods storage solutions.

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