A weekend trip to Bunnings is an integral part of Australian culture. And wandering those big long aisles it’s quite easy to think you could buy just about anything from their well-stocked shelves. And you probably can — except if you happen to need a chemical storage cabinet. This blog looks at the key considerations when sourcing safety cabinets for your chemicals, because a chemical storage cabinet is never an off-the-shelf purchase. We always recommend conducting a chemical risk assessment before making a purchase.
REMEMBER: . Your safety cabinet should be manufactured to Australian Safety Standards and match the hazard class of the substances you need to store.
CONSIDERATION 1: Hazard Class of the chemicals
Your first consideration will be identifying the hazard class of the chemicals you need to store. The hazard class should be clearly marked on the label, but you always refer to the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) that was issued by the supplier. The SDS will provide essential information about storage conditions (eg, store in a dry place) as well as any incompatibilities (eg, incompatible with strong oxidising agents).
You’ll need to refer to the Australian Safety Standards that match each of the hazard classes (eg, flammable liquids, compressed gases in cylinders, toxic substances, corrosives) for essential requirements like:
- Construction specifications (eg, flammable liquids require the walls, floor, door and roof to be constructed from double-walled sheet steel construction, with a space of at least 40 mm between the walls).
- Componentry (eg, door catches and hinges on organic peroxide cabinets cannot be constructed of plastic materials).
- Separation and segregation (eg, difference classes of compressed gases must be stored at least 3 metres from each other).
- Locking requirements (eg, cabinets for toxic substances must be lockable).
- Spill control (eg, corrosive cabinets require a liquid-tight spill sump at least 150 mm deep and capable of containing at least 25% of the maximum storage capacity).
- Signage (eg, Class 4 Dangerous When Wet substances must have a sign bearing the words ‘NO SMOKING, NO IGNITION SOURCES WITHIN 3 m’ in lettering at least 50 mm high).
IMPORTANT: Incompatibility is one of the biggest issues when storing hazardous chemicals so even though you want a cabinet that fits into a convenient space it must be strategically placed to satisfy segregation requirements.
CONSIDERATION 2: Quantities of chemicals
Your second consideration will be the quantities of chemicals you are keeping and the size of the containers. The maximum allowable quantities according to Australian Safety Standards will determine the size of the cabinet you buy and how many you need. Examples include:
- Single cabinet quantities: some hazard classes have a maximum quantity that can be kept in a single cabinet (eg, toxic substances).
- Minor storage: Australian Standards have different storage requirements for smaller quantities of hazardous chemicals (also known as Minor Storage). Once chemical quantities exceed the Minor Storage threshold, the rules for storage change. The threshold for Minor Storage is often determined by the gross quantity of chemicals as well as individual package sizes. (eg, minor storage of organic peroxides must be in packages individually containing not more than 5 kg or 5 L and in a total quantity not exceeding 20 kg or 20 L).
- Aggregate quantities: there are maximum allowable quantities in a single cabinet when mixed classes are stored in the same cabinet (eg, aggregate maximum quantity of dangerous goods kept in a single storage cabinet shall not exceed 250 kg or 250 L)
CONSIDERATION 3: Indoors vs Outdoors
Your third consideration will be whether the chemicals will be stored indoors or outside. According to Australian Standards each chemical hazard class will have different considerations (eg, compressed gases should be stored outside wherever possible). The cabinets themselves have specific construction requirements, so you cannot just move an indoor safety cabinet outside. It won’t be compliant.
Where you decide to store your chemicals (indoors vs outdoors) will determine the type of cabinet or chemical store you will need to use. Your decision will need to consider:
- Restrictions on the maximum allowable quantities held indoors (eg, compressed gas cylinders have indoor storage limits).
- Weather: can your outdoor store cope with extreme weather patterns including strong winds, electrical storms, heavy rain and flooding?
- Temperature: some chemicals must be kept within certain temperatures. Can you properly regulate temperatures in an outdoor store?
- Ventilation: ventilation is critical for any type of hazardous chemicals, outdoor storage often provides a natural ventilation source.
- Security: how can you secure outdoor stores from unauthorised access.
- Stability: dedicated outdoors stores are usually manufactured with engineered footings so they can be tethered to the ground. Indoor cabinets won’t have this capability.
IMPORTANT: indoor and outdoors chemical safety cabinets have different manufacturing specifications, they cannot be interchanged.
We love Bunnings as much as you do. They have a great range of hardware and industrial products but remember, they don’t sell chemical storage cabinets. If you’re looking at purchasing a chemical storage cabinet, we invite you to get in touch with our Dangerous Goods specialists who can help you carry out a risk assessment on the hazardous chemicals you carry. For more information on how to choose the right chemical storage cabinet for your flammable liquids, download our free ebook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors.