Many commercial and industrial worksites carry a range of flammable liquids, corrosives and toxic chemicals — all of which require careful segregation to avoid fires, explosions and dangerous reactions. In this blog we’ll be looking at some of the key requirements for storing each of these hazard classes safely and in accordance with Australian Safety Standards.
Understanding chemical types
In order to store hazardous chemicals legally and safely it is critically important to understand the chemical properties of each substance as well as their physical and health hazards. Carry out a risk assessment referring to Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and industry guidelines.
Flammable and combustible liquids
Flammable and combustible liquids are some of the most common substances found on worksites. They include petrol, diesel fuel, ethanol, methanol, toluene, methyl benzine, degreasers, kerosene, turpentine, fuel oils, lubricants, adhesives, resins, enamel paints, pesticides and insecticides.
Flammable liquids can be harmful to human health if inhaled, swallowed, ingested, or splashed onto the skin and eyes. Depending on the properties of the individual chemicals they can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, impairment, respiratory complications, asthma and dermatitis. Some flammable liquids are also carcinogenic causing chronic disease and cancer with repeated exposure.
But because flammable liquids are so common and widely used, workers sometimes downgrade their safety risks and hazards. These chemicals need to be isolated from ignition sources and incompatible substances as many flammable liquids will easily ignite at room temperature — and at higher temperatures can auto-ignite or explode.
Corrosives that are commonly used on worksites include sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, acetic acid, nitric acid and hydrofluoric acid, caustic soda (sodium hydroxide), ammonium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide.
Corrosive substances attack and destroy living tissue and can cause death or serious injury to workers if inhaled (burns to respiratory tract), splashed onto the skin or eyes (tissue damage and blindness), or swallowed (burns to throat and digestive system). Corrosives can also be harmful to the natural environment, especially aquatic life.
Corrosives present a unique storage hazard — because they can also attack and destroy incompatible container and storage materials. They require careful segregation and are usually kept inside containers and cabinets made from polyethylene.
Toxic chemicals are the poisons and substances that are harmful to humans and living things. They include many pesticides and herbicides as well as cyanide, formaldehyde, acrylonitrile, hydrogen sulfide, acetone, hydrogen peroxide, mercury, lead arsenic, strychnine.
Toxic chemicals can cause both acute and chronic poisoning (which develops with repeated exposure), and the severity depends on several factors including the:
- Toxicity of the chemical
- Route of exposure (swallowing, inhalation, ingestion, absorption)
- Chemical concentration
- Overall health factors of the person.
Toxic chemicals must be stored carefully because of the high risk to human health as well as the environment. Many toxic substances will react in the presence of other chemicals, heat, and fire potentially creating toxic gases and deadly fumes — pay attention to individual compatibility hazards.
When storing hazardous chemical or dangerous goods it’s very important to be aware of the chemical’s compatibility hazards. Check the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) (Section 7: Handling and storage, Section 10: stability and reactivity) for specific storage recommendations.
In most cases flammable liquids, corrosives and toxic chemicals should be kept at least 3 metres apart — this is a requirement of Australian Standard AS3833:2007 — The storage and handling of mixed classes of dangerous goods, in packages and intermediate bulk containers.
REMEMBER: Using compliant indoor safety cabinets for each hazard class may negate the need for separation distances between cabinets. Always conduct a risk assessment if deviating from Australian Standards.
Indoor safety cabinets
One of the best ways to minimise your HAZCHEM risk is to store drums, bottles and containers of flammable liquids, corrosives and toxic chemicals inside dedicated indoor safety cabinets. STOREMASTA manufacture safety cabinets for these chemical types in a range of sizes.
The key benefits of using an indoor safety cabinet for your flammable liquids, corrosives and toxic chemicals is because they:
- Offer liquid tight spill protection for the chemicals.
- Safely contain vapours and fumes.
- Reduce segregation distance requirements.
Because the chemicals are fully contained within the cabinets, the segregation distances we outlined in the last section can be reduced (provided the cabinets are loaded and used correctly).
1. Flammable liquids
Safety cabinets for storing flammable and combustible liquids have the following requirements:
- Constructed from double-walled sheet steel.
- Construction materials and componentry must be able to withstand temperatures of up to 850 °C.
- Have self-closing doors that are held in place by catches in at least two points.
- If the cabinet doors use mechanisms to keep them open, these must automatically release if temperature exceeds a nominal 80°C.
ESSENTIAL REFERENCE: AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids
Safety cabinets for storing corrosive substances have the following requirements:
- Constructed from materials that are resistant to corrosion OR have a corrosion resistant protective coating.
- Cabinet doors must be self-closing and create a seal that contains corrosive vapours.
- Cabinet doors must NOT open inwards.
- Cabinet doors must be able to be opened from inside the cabinet.
- Cabinets must be located near hand washing facilities.
ESSENTIAL REFERENCE: AS3780:2008 — The storage and handling of corrosive substances
3. Toxic substances
Toxic safety cabinets have the following requirements:
- Double-walled sheet steel construction that can withstand temperatures of at least 850 °C.
- Close fitting doors that close automatically.
- Cabinets must be lockable.
- If fumes cannot be fully contained within the cabinet, a mechanical ventilation must be fitted to the cabinet.
ESSENTIAL REFERENCE: AS4452:1997 — The storage and handling of toxic substances
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