All Australian workplaces have a responsibility under the WHS Regulations to provide a safe working environment for people, and ensure that the daily operations of the business do not adversely impact the local community or the natural environment. For workplaces that use or store flammable liquids this can be a challenging undertaking. So we’ve published this blog to bring to your attention, six important ways (that just by putting your flammable liquids into a safety cabinet) you can immediately reduce your WHS compliance risk.
1. Creates a fire protection barrier
Your primary consideration when storing flammable liquids is preventing the chemicals from igniting or becoming involved in a fire. A safety cabinet manufactured to Australian Standard AS1940:2017 –-The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids offers immediate protection from industrial heat, naked flames, and other ignition sources (sparks, static electricity). Many common substances (paints, petrol, thinners) can quickly ignite at room temperature and a cabinet will safely contain any flammable vapours and fumes.
But an indoor flammable liquids cabinet also provides your workforce with a safety window if a fire erupted at the job site. Compliant safety cabinets are constructed from double-walled sheet steel, and the componentry must be able to withstand temperatures of at least 850°C. What this means is, a fire will take some time to penetrate the cabinet giving workers enough time to evacuate the premises or activate the fire suppression system.
2. Safely contains leaks and spills
It is a requirement of Section 357 of the WHS Regulations to provide a spill containment system where hazardous chemicals are used, handled, generated or stored. You can be fined up to $30,000 (per offence) for failing to do so.
Leaking flammable liquids create an immediate fire hazard because they emit highly flammable fumes and vapours. These vapours can actually travel considerable distances and still be capable of igniting.
Incidents of flame flashback along vapour trails of up to 100 meters have been recorded.
Once a flammable liquid spills, the chemical can soak into wooden tools and utensils, cardboard packaging, cloth rags and towels, uniforms, clothing or onto plastic wrapping. All of these items will now contain highly flammable vapours.
Flammable liquids cabinets that comply with AS1940:2017 have an in-built spill containment sump to catch leaking fluids from broken or damaged containers. The spilled chemicals remain inside the cabinet until they can be cleared and disposed of safely.
3. Segregates flammables from incompatible substances
Flammable liquids are incompatible with many organic peroxides, oxidising agents, corrosives and toxic substances. A compliant safety cabinet will prevent your flammables from contacting any substance or material that could cause:
- Fires and explosions.
- Violent reactions that create heat, force and pressure.
- Toxic or corrosive gas clouds.
4. Provides impact and damage protection
A flammable liquids cabinet provides immediate impact protection from falling debris, flying objects, delivery vehicles, and forklifts. If you are storing chemicals on the production floor or in high traffic zones this is a critical consideration.
Section 358 of the WHS Regulations stipulates protecting hazardous chemicals from damage and your organisation can be fined up to $30,000 for failing to protect containers of hazardous chemicals against damage from impact or excessive loads.
Very often workers leave chemical containers in unstable piles or on overloaded pallets because they don’t know where else to put them. Having a dedicated flammable liquids cabinet means workers always know exactly where to store the chemicals.
5. More consistent storage temperatures
Flammable liquids become more dangerous as temperatures increase, and a safety cabinet will certainly help you keep the chemicals at a more even temperature. In order to fully understand why flammable liquids become more hazardous during temperature fluctuations, you should be aware of the following three risk factors :
- Flashpoint - the minimum temperature where the chemical can produce enough vapours to ignite and burn.
- Auto-ignition temperature - the minimum temperature where the chemical can ignite without a spark or other ignition source.
- Explosive range - the temperature range (and vapour concentration levels) that will enable the chemical to explode.
Look for a chemical’s flashpoint, auto-ignition temperature, and explosive range on the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) remembering that this will be different for every chemical.
6. Secures chemicals from unauthorised people
We are now living in a society where acts of violence, terrorism, vandalism and other hate crimes are often magnified through the use of hazardous chemicals. Securing your flammable liquids in a steel safety cabinet makes it more difficult for unauthorised personnel to access chemicals with the intention of using them for malicious purposes.
7. Easily identified storage area
It is a requirement of WHS Regulations, Australian Safety Standards, and the ADG Code that all hazardous chemicals and Dangerous Goods are clearly identified. A flammable liquids cabinet comes with compliant warning placards and mandatory signage already in place. Your workers and site visitors can easily identify that hazardous and flammable materials are in the vicinity.
If you are considering a new safety cabinet for your flammable liquids we strongly encourage you to download our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. It’s the definitive guide to choosing, installing and maintaining an indoor flammable liquids cabinet. Download and read it today by clicking on the image below.