Are you storing flammable chemicals? This blog will help you learn what NOT to do if your business handles and stores Class 3 Dangerous Goods. Over the decades, our team of Field Auditors have visited countless workplaces right across the country. And it’s fair to say that we’ve seen some concerning practices when it comes to chemical storage. So, to help you get on the right track — and create a safe, compliant workplace — we’ve put together 6 things that you should avoid at all costs if you’re storing flammables.
If any of these examples look familiar, we highly recommend that you review your handling and storage practices so you can work towards achieving flammable liquids safety.
#1. Neglect Your Chemical Containers
While buying a flammable cabinet is a great step towards achieving compliance, there are many other factors that you must consider if you want to reduce risk in your chemical stores and work areas.
One of the most common mistakes that we see (all too often) are chemical containers not being maintained properly or stored correctly.
Keeping your chemical containers clean and your cabinet in order can greatly reduce the risk of chemical spills, leaks and vapour emissions.
When it comes to the handling and storage of Class 3 Flammable Liquids, there is the real risk of the chemical spilling, leaking or emitting hazardous vapours. To minimise the potential for a fire, explosion or human harm, you must first ensure that all chemical containers are approved for storing flammable liquids. You must also make sure that the containers are in good condition (no punctures, splits or damage) and correctly labelled for Class 3 flammables.
It’s also very important to remember to clean off any chemical residue on the outside of the container before you place it back in the cabinet. Furthermore, make sure that the containers have tight-fitting lids that are replaced as soon as the chemicals have been used, as this will limit the amount of flammable vapours that are emitted from the chemical containers.
#2. Store Combustibles In Or On The Cabinet
Flammable liquids – the name says it all. So, it’s vital that you keep your flammable chemicals away from any type of combustible material that can easily catch on fire and burn.
Combustible materials include a vast range of everyday products including paperwork, paintbrushes, cleaning rags, PPE and even uniforms.
Instead of storing these flammable materials in or near your safety cabinet, find a dedicated space for each of your item types (such as a filing cabinet for paperwork or a PPE cabinet for your protective equipment).
We often see flammable cabinets used as dumping grounds for miscellaneous items, so educate your staff about the dangers of leaving combustible items in or on top of your flammable storage cabinets.
Flammable liquids must never be stored with combustibles, so make sure that items such as PPE are stored in their own cabinet.
#3. Ignore Installation and Post-Installation Checks
Your brand-new cabinet is designed to protect your flammable chemicals from heat and damage; providing a safe storage space for your Class 3 Dangerous Goods. However, your cabinet can’t act as a risk control measure for your business if it hasn’t been installed (and maintained) in the right way.
As soon as your cabinet arrives onsite, you should make sure that the installation process is being carried out by the appropriately-trained staff. Generally, we recommend that flammable cabinets are installed (or relocated) by a team who are supervised by a senior staff person who is trained in flammable liquids safety. This is to ensure that all the correct procedures are followed during the cabinet installation.
Your cabinet must be installed as per the requirements of Australian Standard AS 1940:2017 in order to maintain compliance.
After the initial installation, it’s also recommended that you conduct post-installation checks on your flammable cabinets, so you can ensure that it’s been installed and set up in a compliant manner.
#4. Not Train Your Staff In Flammable Liquids Safety
It’s not enough to simply buy a compliant flammable cabinet — you must also make sure that your staff know how to use and maintain the cabinet in order for it to be an effective risk control measure.
If your cabinet is being used by a range of staff members and contractors, then each of these staff must be trained in flammable liquids safety. Whether workers use the cabinet several times a day, or a contractor requires the flammable chemicals just a few times a month, you must implement a flammable liquids training program so all staff members and contractors are aware of the safety rules, regulations, chemical hazards and emergency procedures.
#5. Use The Wrong Type Of Safety Cabinet
Does your business use multiple Classes of Dangerous Goods? If you answered ‘yes’, then you should be aware of the risks involved with incompatible substances in the workplace. One of the simplest ways to segregate flammable chemicals from incompatible substances is by storing your chemicals in their own safety cabinet.
However, all safety cabinets are designed to specifically store a certain Class of Dangerous Goods. Therefore, your corrosive storage cabinet or toxic substances cabinet won’t be suitably designed and constructed to store Class 3 Flammable Liquids.
Flammable cabinets are manufactured in full compliance with Australian Standard 1940:2017. The features of the cabinet include risk control measures specifically for flammable liquids, such as liquid-tight spill containment sumps, self-closing and tight-fitting doors for spill and vapour containment, and perforated steel adjustable shelving for maximum air flow.
When considering chemical storage options for your flammable liquids, you should only select a cabinet or outdoor store that’s been constructed to meet the requirements of AS 1940:2017.
#6. Overload Your Cabinet
As we’ve touched on in the above section, your flammable cabinet is constructed to reduce the risks associated with storing flammable liquids. However, your cabinet won’t be able to provide risk control measures if it isn’t stacked and loaded correctly.
You should make sure that:
- Staff should only store Class 3 Flammable Liquids in flammable cabinets
- Cabinets should never be overloaded (refer to the maximum capacity that’s displayed on the front of your cabinet)
- Nothing should be stored in the spill containment sump
- Containers should be neatly positioned in the cabinet, so the self-closing doors are functioning as they should
- Drums (60 L or more) should only be stacked 2 high
Inspect your flammable cabinet to ensure that there’s no signs of deterioration or damage.
#7. Overlooking Emergency Decontamination Equipment
Have you determined the need for eyewash equipment and/or a safety shower in your flammable liquid's storage area? While the need for emergency equipment should be determined on a site-by-site basis, there are some general guidelines that you can follow to see if your flammable chemical work areas require eyewash and shower equipment.
You must provide eyewash equipment if:
- Flammable liquids containers are opened in the vicinity of the cabinet
- Eyewash equipment could be anything from bottled eyewash to multiple plumed eyewash units, depending on your risk assessment
A safety shower should be installed when:
- It’s determined by a risk assessment
- There’s a requirement under WHS Regulations
- You’re storing more than 2,000 L of flammable liquids
Remember that it’s a requirement of WHS Regulations that Australian businesses provide first aid equipment and this is accessible to each worker. We strongly recommend conducting a risk inspection before you purchase flammable liquids storage equipment, so you can effectively plan your storage areas with the provision for emergency decontamination equipment, if required.
#8. Make It Difficult To Access Chemical Documents
If your staff are to fully understand the risks associated with the handling and storage of Dangerous Goods, then they must have easy access to the chemicals’ Safety Data Sheets and the Register of Hazardous Chemicals.
These crucial documents will help your team stay informed, safe and compliant — but it’s no use having these documents in the workplace if no one can find them.
We recommend that you keep your documents in purpose-built document holders. These can be attached to your flammable cabinet or store, so staff can instantly gain access to them in the event of an emergency.
Store your SDS and Register of Hazardous Chemicals in a document holder and attach to your flammable liquids stores.
#9. Forget About Lighting
In Section 3.6 of AS 1940:2017, the standard explains the following requirements for lighting in flammable liquids storage areas:
(a) During the hours of operation, lighting shall be sufficient to provide safe working conditions that include, but are not limited to, clear visibility of all markings on packages, signs, instruments and other necessary items. NOTE: A minimum value of 50 lx is recommended.
(b) Sufficient lighting shall be available on any of the installation’s internal roads when personnel at the premises might use them.
(c) Any lighting in a hazardous area shall be suitable to operate in that area
When planning your flammable liquids stores, you must follow a range of general requirements as set out in the standard —including the provision for adequate lighting. By failing to provide lighting in these Dangerous Goods workspaces, you may be putting your staff at risk as they won’t be able to correctly identify DG signage, read chemical labels, locate the correct chemicals or carry out their daily duties safely.
#10. Allow Ignition Sources Within 3 m of Flammable Chemicals
We’re finishing our 10 things you should NEVER do with a crucial safety message: when dealing with flammable and combustible liquids, you must always correctly identify and eliminate any ignition sources from your storage and handling areas.
Flammable liquids can quickly emit large amounts of flammable vapours, which can ignite in the presence of an ignition source at room temperature. Due to the highly flammable nature of this Class of Dangerous Goods, it’s vital that workplaces correctly identify and eliminate any type of ignition source, including power points, naked flames, pilot lights, welding equipment, ovens, cigarettes and many more. Make sure that all staff, supervisors and contractors are fully trained in flammable liquids safety, so they can successfully eliminate ignition sources from any areas that carry flammable liquids.
How Can You Improve Flammable Liquids Safety?
Thanks for taking the time to read our blog about the safe storage of flammable chemicals. If you’d like to learn more about storing flammable liquids in your workplace, we have an eBook that can help. Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors will help you better understand the risks associated with Class 3 Flammable Liquids and lead you through the process of assessing and storing your flammable chemicals safely. Access our eBook for free today.