Decanting from the flammable liquid’s cabinet: yes, or no? It’s one of the most common questions we get asked by clients who are setting up safe chemical storage systems — and our answer is always the same — it depends on your risk assessment. This blog is for anyone considering their indoor flammable liquids cabinet for use as a chemical decanting station and includes 5 critical considerations to include in your risk assessment.
1. Australian Safety Standards
Your first consideration will be an issue of compliance with Australian Safety Standards. An indoor flammable liquids cabinet is only an acceptable hazard control measure if the cabinet is constructed, installed, loaded and maintained in accordance with AS1940:2017 – The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids.
Your risk assessment should consider each of the following requirements of the Standard:
- Persons shall be prevented from entering the cabinet. Would decanting require a worker to enter the cabinet for any reason?
- Drums shall not be stacked more than two high if they are greater than 60 L capacity. Would decanting change drum stacking patterns?
- Only one drum of more than 60 L capacity should be kept in a horizontal (decanting) position at any time. Would decanting require more than one drum to be stored horizontally?
- Only closed packages, or those fitted with a tap, should be stored in the cabinet. Would decanting require the opening of the chemical containers while inside the cabinet? And if using fitted taps, are they creating a full seal?
REMEMBER: Any deviation from the Standard may negate the effectiveness of the cabinet as a chemical hazard control measure.
2. Fire and explosion hazards
Your risk assessment should then consider if decanting from the cabinet will increase the risk of fire or explosions. Every time the cabinet doors are open the chemicals are vulnerable to ignition sources that may be in the area: flames, sparks, hot work, static electricity, other electrical discharge.
Indoor flammable liquids cabinets are actually designed to fully contain the liquid chemicals (as well as their vapours) and offer a 10-minute fire protection barrier. This is achieved by:
- Construction materials and componentry that can withstand more than 850°C.
- Tight-fitting doors that close automatically.
- Having mechanisms in place to release doors (that are equipped with a device to hold them open) — if the temperature rises above a nominal 80°C.
Decanting flammable liquids from the cabinet may interfere with the functionality of the self-closing doors and limit the cabinet’s effectiveness as a fire/heat barrier. Your risk assessment will need to consider how often decanting takes place and how long the cabinet doors will be open.
3. Vapours and fumes
You have a responsibility to keep all chemical vapours and fumes in the breathing zones of workers within workplace exposure standards. Your risk assessment must consider if chemical exposure hazards will increase with decanting, this will include:
- Health and exposure hazards of the chemicals (eg irritant, toxic, corrosive, carcinogenic)
- Maximum storage capacity of the flammable liquid’s cabinet.
- Aggregate quantity of the store.
- Proximity to first aid equipment, safety showers and eyewash units.
- Frequency of decanting.
- Quantities of chemicals being decanted.
REMEMBER: You’ll be decanting chemicals indoors so also consider the ventilation in the room.
4. Chemical spillage
Spillage is one of the biggest risks relating to the decanting and dispensing of hazardous chemicals — and spilled flammable liquids create an immediate fire, explosion, exposure and environmental hazard. Your risk assessment will now look at the actual decanting process, how it is carried out, and if decanting from the cabinet increases your chemical spill risk.
- Sophistication and effectiveness of decanting equipment.
- Position of pourers in relation to the cabinet’s chemical spill compound.
- Fit and seal of adjunct spill catchment equipment.
- Quantities of chemicals being decanted.
- Stability of cabinet (ie, could decanting destabilise the cabinet?).
Chemical spillage doesn’t just happen at the time of decanting, portable containers can be knocked over or dropped — they can also leak. You’ll also need to consider the post-decanting process, where filled containers are stored and how long they remain in the vicinity of the cabinet.
5. Compatibility hazards
Unless fully contained within a compliant safety cabinet, Flammable liquids must be kept 3-5 metres away from incompatible substances like corrosives, toxic chemicals, oxidisers, certain compressed gases and organic peroxides. Safety cabinets greatly reduce these distances as the vapours and fumes are contained.
If you are going to decant from your flammable liquids cabinet your risk assessment must also identify if incompatible substances are being used, stored, handled, or generated in the proximity of the cabinet. Will the decanting process increase the risk of a dangerous chemical reaction with another substance?
6. Work environment
- Proximity of the cabinet to production teams, maintenance crews, vehicles or pedestrian traffic, hazardous installations, construction work.
- General housekeeping in and around the cabinet.
- Climatic considerations including ambient temperature and humidity.
Please don’t start decanting chemicals from your flammable liquids cabinet until you have read our latest eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. Our eBook details all your compliance requirements as well as a full explanation (with real world examples) of the risk assessment process. Download and read it today, it’s completely free.