Do flammable cabinets need to be locked?

Aug 27, 2018 Posted by Walter Ingles

Flammable liquids storage cabinets are storage facilities that are used in the workplace to help reduce the risk that flammable liquids pose upon people, property and the environment. The intended use of a flammable liquids storage cabinet is to:

  • Protect the contents within the cabinet against damage
  • Provide segregation between incompatible chemicals
  • To contain spills
  • In the case of a fire, allow at least 10 minutes for the escape of persons or the use of firefighting equipment.

To help achieve these functions, flammable liquids storage cabinets have a number of features. These include:

  • Heavy duty sheet metal construction to protect the contents within the cabinet from damage.
  • Self-closing close-fitting doors to ensure that all the contents within the cabinet are always shielded from other incompatible substances.
  • Spill containment sump to catch any spills that may occur within the cabinet.  
  • Dual skinned construction to provide insulation and prevent flammable liquids within the cabinet from immediately igniting in the event of a fire.  

Most flammable liquids storage cabinets also have lockable doors. This feature makes some WHS personnel think that it’s a regulatory requirement to have flammable liquids storage cabinets locked at all times. However, this common practice is a misconception. The Australian Standard that outlines the requirements for the storage and handling of flammable liquids is AS1940. The standard does state:

“All cabinet doors shall be self-closing, close-fitting and held shut automatically by catches at two or more points.”

However there is no reference that states that flammable liquids storage cabinets must be locked at all times. Therefore, flammable liquids storage cabinets can be kept unlocked if required.

Is it a good practice to lock flammable liquids storage cabinets?

As outlined above, it is not a mandatory requirement to lock flammable liquids storage cabinets. Therefore the benefits of this practice will come down to your specific flammable liquids storage situation. For example; If the contents that you are storing within the cabinet are extremely flammable and only certain people in the workplace are authorised to use it, locking the cabinet could be a risk control measure to ensure that only authorised personnel have access to the highly flammable liquids.  

Pros of locking flammable liquids storage cabinet

Obviously there are a number of benefits of locking flammable liquids storage cabinets. Some of these benefits include:

  • Allowing only authorised personnel to have access to highly flammable liquids
  • Reduced risk of inventory theft by controlling access
  • Reduced risk of inventory wastage

Cons of locking flammable liquids storage cabinets

Even though there are some benefits of locking flammable liquids storage cabinets, there are some impracticalities as well. These impracticalities include:

  • Risk of not being able to obtain packages of flammable liquids when required, causing downtime in production processes.
  • Risk of not being able to access the cabinet in the event of a fire or emergency.
  • Risk of not being able to access the cabinet in a timely manner after a major spill has occurred inside the cabinet.

Next steps

AS1940 doesn’t make the locking of flammable liquids storage cabinets a mandatory requirement, therefore it only has to be done if you see it as an important risk control measure in your workplace. Some of these risks control measures could include;

  • Preventing unauthorised access
  • Reducing the risk of inventory theft
  • Reducing the risk of inventory wastage

If you would like more information on how to reduce the risk of flammable liquids in the workplace, download our FREE eBook by clicking on the image below.

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Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Adviser. He loves helping businesses 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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