With chemical, biological and safety hazards all present in a typical working day, laboratories are workplaces which pose a wide range of risks. Whether it’s the use of heat during a laboratory process or the mixing of different chemicals, it’s essential that you understand what steps you must take to create a safe and compliant workplace. Laboratories that work with Class 3 Flammable Liquids must carefully manage their stores if they are to reduce the risk of fire, explosion, human harm and dangerous chemical reactions. In this blog, we’ll be sharing 4 of our top tips for the safe storage of flammable liquids in the laboratory. 

Step #1. Understand The Hazards 

Most Class 3 Flammable Liquids pose more hazards than the hazard of easy ignition. If you’re introducing flammable liquids into your lab, the first step is to get a comprehensive understanding of the hazards associated with each individual chemical that you carry.  

You should always refer to the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) of each product,  so workers are aware of both the physical and health hazards. Keep your SDS in an easily accessible location that can be easily found by staff, supervisors and, in the event of an accident, emergency services. 

Here are some common examples of hazards that are found in the lab: 

Chemical Physical Hazard Health Hazard
ACETONE Highly flammable. Can explode and auto-ignite at certain temperatures / concentrations. Serious skin and eye irritant. Causes drowsiness and dizziness. Toxic.
BENZENE Highly flammable. Can explode and auto-ignite at certain temperatures / concentrations. Skin and eye irritant. Carcinogenic. Mutagenic. Fatal if swallowed or enters airways. Toxic.  
PENTANE Highly flammable. Can explode and auto-ignite at certain temperatures / concentrations. Can react violently with strong oxidising agents, nitric acid and halogens. Toxic. Specific organ toxicity. Aspiration hazard. Fatal if swallowed or enters airways. Causes drowsiness and dizziness.


Highly flammable. Can explode and auto-ignite at certain temperatures / concentrations.

Oral, dermal and inhalation toxicity. Causes damage to organs.  
ETHANOL Highly flammable. Incompatible with oxidising agents, peroxides, acids, acid chlorides, acid anhydrides, alkali metals and ammonia.  Serious eye irritant. Can cause headaches, dizziness and nausea. Dermatitis risk with repeated exposure. 


 IMPORTANT: These are generic hazards and should not be used in a risk assessment without first consulting the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) issued by the chemical manufacturer. 

Once you are familiar with all the chemical’s hazards you can put measures in place to minimise fire hazards and ensure that incompatible substances aren’t stored together.  

It is critical that all lab workers understand how the chemicals could ignite or explode. 

STOREMASTA Blog Image - 4 Essential steps for keeping flammable liquids in the laboratory

To reduce the risks associated with the handling and storage of flammable liquids in the lab, all workers must be fully aware of how these chemicals can start a fire or cause an explosion.

Step #2. Isolate Ignition Sources & Incompatible Substances 

Many chemicals in the laboratory are highly flammable and have very low flash points. This means that many flammable liquids can easily ignite at room temperature and cause a severe, fast-burning fire. 

All workers and supervisors in your laboratory should be familiar with the explosive range and autoignition temperatures of each substance. They should also be educated about how a flammable liquid could react dangerously with another substance.  

Highly flammable liquids commonly used in laboratories include  chemicals such as ethanol, methanol, benzene and acetone. Add to this the incompatibility of flammable liquids with corrosives, toxic substances, flammable gases and other Dangerous Goods, and you have a range of serious hazards that you must control in your laboratory. 

The key to reducing risk with flammable liquids is to isolate the chemicals from ignition sources and incompatible substances.  

Staff using Flammable CabinetYou can store flammable liquids safely indoors by choosing a compliant flammable liquids storage cabinet that’s installed away from any ignition sources.  

In any area that handles or stores flammable liquids, you’ll need to manage potential ignition sources very carefully.  

Sources of ignition in the laboratory could include: 

  • Sparks - what tools, machinery or laboratory procedures could generate sparks? Don’t forget faulty electrical equipment or power chords. 
  • Naked flames - have a strict policy for procedures that involve the use of naked flames.  
  • Heat - consider the equipment, machinery and processes in the lab that produce heat. 
  • Static Electricity - could clothing or personal electronics generate static electricity?

When you are aware of potential ignition sources, measures can be introduced to ensure that flammable liquids are isolated and we always recommend putting them away safely inside a compliant Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinet. 

Flammable liquids must be segregated from other classes of Dangerous Goods or a chemical reaction may occur. This reaction may be in the form of a violent explosion or it may be the mixing of substances which forms a toxic gas. To ensure flammable liquids are isolated from incompatible substances, they should only be stored in a flammable cabinet that is used only for the storage of Class 3 Flammable Liquids. Extra care must be taken not to take flammable liquids into areas of the laboratory that are using incompatible substances.  

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Step #3. Use Compliant Class 3 Flammable Liquids Cabinets 

One of the simplest and safest ways to store your flammable liquids indoors is by choosing a compliant flammable cabinet 

When we talk about a ‘compliant’ flammable liquid storage cabinet, we mean a double-walled safety cabinet manufactured to Australian Standard AS1940:2017 – The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids.  

Flammable cabinets offer a range of risk control measures that are particularly useful in a confined workplace such as a laboratory. Due to the presence of mixed classes of Dangerous Goods — and a general lack of floor space in many laboratories — flammable cabinets offer insulation and protection for chemicals that must be stored away from incompatible substances.  

Lab Technician

Storing flammable liquids in a dedicated flammable cabinet will reduce the risk of your chemicals causing a dangerous chemical reaction. 

When storing flammable liquids in a safety cabinet, you don’t have to segregate your store from incompatible substances by the required 3 or 5 metres, as your flammable cabinet provides sufficient chemical  segregation due to its compliant construction. 

The built-in spill containment compound in the lower recess of the cabinet is also an effective means of preventing and containing any type of chemical leak or spill. Hazardous vapours, which can cause health issues such as eye irritation or asphyxiation, are also contained within the self-closing, close-fitting doors of the cabinet. The provision of perforated shelving allows the free flow of air within the cabinet, which assists in the dispersion of vapours. 

Compliant cabinets are constructed with the following safety features: 

  • Double walls constructed from sheet steel, with at least 40mm between the walls. 
  • Self-closing, close-fitting doors with and all gaps sealed. 
  • Perforated interior shelving. 
  • Shelves strong enough to safely hold the maximum container size. 
  • Lower compound acts as a liquid containment sump and is at least 150mm deep. 
  • Clearly marked with appropriate warning placards, and manufacturer’s details. 

Having a safe, dedicated space to store your flammable liquids also allows for a more organised and efficient work area. It also discourages unsafe practices such as leaving containers on benches or not closing the cabinet doors, which can all increase the risk of fire, explosion and human harm. 

Step #4. Implement Consistent Housekeeping Practices 

The final step in our 4 essential steps for keeping flammable liquids in the laboratory is the implementation of consistent housekeeping practices. 

After identifying hazards, isolating ignition sources and incompatible chemicals, and introducing compliant safety cabinets, you must then consider how you are going to use and maintain this high-tech risk control measure. 

Diligent housekeeping practices can have a huge impact on lab safety. Make sure that you have clear procedures in place and instruct supervisors to enforce these procedures consistently.  

As a minimum, your daily housekeeping should include: 

  • Keeping work areas and bench tops clear and uncluttered. Don’t leave chemical containers without lids, caps or covers. 
  • Minimising combustible materials by throwing away packaging material and cardboard cartons before storage. 
  • Ensuring power chords have been tagged and tested, and are not discharging. 
  • Monitoring power points and light switches for electrical discharge. 
  • Putting chemicals away in safety cabinets as soon as you finish using them. This also includes chemical deliveries from suppliers. 
  • Using efficient purchasing policies to minimise chemical stocks in the lab. 
  • Segregating chemicals correctly 
  • Keeping cabinet doors closed and never propping them open with foreign objects. 
  • Not allowing workers to bring personal items into the lab — eg, providing lockers outside the lab for backpacks, mobile phones, clothing and cosmetics.  

To maintain the highest standards of safety in the laboratory, we recommend carrying out regular housekeeping inspections to ensure that all procedures have been followed. If there are any tasks that are not being done properly or are being ignored, supervisors should swiftly follow up with staff for any breaches of housekeeping policies. If all staff are educated about the risks of handling and storing flammable liquids in the laboratory, then they will be more likely to ensure that daily housekeeping procedures are being followed. 

How Are You Storing Your Laboratory Chemicals? 

Are you searching for a more efficient, safe way to store your flammable liquids in the laboratory? Our helpful guide, Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoorsdetails how to carry out a risk assessment on the flammable liquids in your lab. It also explains how you should select, install and maintain a flammable liquids cabinet. Grab your free copy of our guide today by clicking on the image below.   

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