How To Store Flammable Liquids In A Safe and Compliant Manner

Originally published November 17, 2021 09:42:16 PM

As volatile chemicals which can easily ignite in the presence of an ignition source, flammable liquids in the workplace pose the risk of fire, explosion and human harm. When your business is carrying any type of Class 3 Dangerous Goods, a key consideration must be how to ensure flammable liquids are stored in a safe, compliant way.  

What Are The Storage Requirements? 

To achieve chemical compliance in your workplace, you should be guided by the requirements of the Australian Standards. While the Standards are not law, they are  accepted as a solution for meeting the legislative requirements surrounding the storage  and handling of dangerous goods. AS 1940:2017 is the Standard that details the requirements for the storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids. By understanding the various sections of this standard, you’ll be able to adhere to the requirements for minor storage, package storage, storage in tanks, fuel dispensing and emergency management.  

In this blog, we’ll be focusing on the requirements for the minor storage and package storage of Class 3 Flammable Liquids.  

Minor Storage Of Flammable Liquids 

Section 2 of AS 1940:2017 outlines the requirements for storing minor quantities of flammable liquids.  

Depending on the packaging group of the flammable liquids that you carry, the requirements are as follows: 

Laboratories 

  • PG I or PG II: 50 L per 50 m2 of floor space, or 50 L in a room of up to 50 m2 of floor space 
  • PG III: 100 L per 50 m2 of floor space 

Commercial Buildings 

  • PG I or PG II: 10 L per 50 m2 of floor space, but 5 L for any tenancy of less than 50 m2 area 
  • PG III: 25 L per 50 m2 of floor space, but 25 L for any tenancy less than 50 m2 in area 

Educational Establishments 

  • PG I or PG II: 5 L per 50 m2 of floor space 
  • PG III: 10 L per 50 m2 of floor space 

Lab Technician

The minor storage quantities for laboratories and commercial buildings are detailed in Section 2 of AS 1940:2017.

Section 2 of the Standard outlines a range of requirements for the minor storage of flammable liquids. We’ll explain these specific requirements in further detail below: 

Exclusion Of Ignition Sources 

Minor storage quantities of flammable liquids must be kept well away from any ignition sources that are present in the workplace.  

An ignition source is any object that will provide flammable vapours with enough heat energy to cause a fire.  

Ignition sources can come in many different forms — and they are not always as easy to identify as a naked flame or a cigarette butt.  

Source Of Ignition Ignition sources may be difficult to identify and can include items that are brought into the work area by workers.

Some examples of common ignition sources that may be present in workplaces include:  

  • Blow torch  
  • Soldering Iron  
  • Grinding sparks  
  • Spark produced from short circuit

Therefore, if you have minor quantities of flammable liquids in the workplace, it’s crucial that you keep them stored in a well-ventilated work area that is at least 3 metres away from any possible ignition sources. 

Provision For Spillage Control 

One of the key risks associated with the storage of flammable liquids is fire or explosion caused by a chemical leak or spill. 

When minor quantities of flammable liquids are stored in your workplace, you’re required to provide equipment to clean up any chemical spills that may occur. As liquids and flammable vapours can quickly travel through workplaces, any flammable liquid spill must be cleaned up immediately.  

Care must be taken to prevent the spilled chemicals from coming into contact with any ignition sources, incompatible chemicals or combustible materials (such as timber or paper).  

Spilled flammable liquids can have severe effects upon the environment, and therefore must be prevented from flowing into any drains, creeks or waterways. If a chemical spill does occur, it can be controlled and cleaned up with a spill kit that contains a non-combustible absorbent such as vermiculite.   

IMPORTANT: Even small quantities of spilled flammable liquids have the potential to create a hazardous vapour cloud that can quickly travel considerable distances throughout a workplace. This poses the serious risk of flashback and therefore the chemical spill must be immediately controlled.  

Fire Protection and Warning Signage  

To protect your organisation from any flammable liquid fires that may occur in the workplace, it’s vital that you keep fire extinguishing equipment close to the area where your flammable liquids are being stored.  

You should have a least one portable fire extinguisher (that is suitable for the use with flammable liquid fire) adjacent to the area where the flammable liquids are being stored.  

In areas where minor quantities of flammable liquids are being decanted, a sign should be displayed to warn of the fire risk.  

This sign should display the words: 

DANGER - FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS - NO SMOKING - KEEP FIRE AWAY 

Quantities Of Flammable Liquids Greater Than Those Allowed As Minor Storage 

If you are storing more than 10 L of flammable liquids per 50 m2 of floor space in a commercial building, it’s no longer classed as minor storage. Therefore, more stringent requirements do apply to the storage of your flammable liquids.  

The requirements are outlined in Section 4 Package Storage and Handling Areas of AS 1940:2017. This section details the different requirements for both indoor storage and outdoor storage.  

In this part of the blog, we’ll detail the requirements for the indoor storage and outdoor storage of Class 3 Flammable Liquids. 

Indoor Storage Of Flammable Liquids 

When flammable liquids are stored indoors, they can be housed in any of the following package stores as detailed in Section 4.2 Types Of Stores. 

These include: 

  • Detached store 
  • Attached fire-separated store 
  • Attached store 
  • Internal store 
  • Detached store being a compliant freight container 
  • Storage cabinet
Due to the practicality and cost-effectiveness of the storage cabinet, the majority of businesses choose this type of store to keep their Class 3 Flammable Liquids. 

 

STOREMASTA safety cabinets-882606-edited

One popular type of package store is a flammable liquids storage cabinet that’s constructed to meet the requirements of AS 1940:2017.

If you’re choosing a flammable liquids storage cabinet for your business, it must meet the requirements outlined in Section 4.9 of the Standard.  

The flammable cabinet requirements include specific details about the cabinet’s: 

  • Construction  
  • Marking  
  • Ventilation  
  • Location  
  • Exclusion from ignition sources  
  • Operation requirements

There are a range of technical construction requirements for flammable storage cabinets to adequately protect people, property and the environment.  

Some of these construction requirements include:  

  • Dual-skinned walls with a 40mm air gap 
  • Self-closing, close-fitting doors  
  • Perforated shelving 
  • Spill containment sump with at least 150mm depth 
  • Components vital to the structural integrity of the cabinet must not melt at temperatures below 850°C

The cabinet must also have the correct warning/dangerous goods signage. This includes a “Class 3 Flammable Liquids” diamond and a “No Smoking No Ignition Sources within 3 Metres” sign. 

Examples of these signs are shown below:
Class 3 diamondClass 3 Flammable Liquids

STOREMASTA Danger No Smoking No Ignition SourcesNo Smoking No Ignition Sources Within 3 Meters

Indoor flammable storage cabinets must also have the provision for mechanical ventilation. They must also be isolated from all ignition sources by at a distance of at least 3 metres.  

For the safety of those working with flammable liquids, flammable cabinets must be designed in a way that prevents persons from entering the cabinet. Drums must also be stacked no more than 2 high if they have a capacity exceeding 60 L. This is to stop the drums toppling and causing a chemical spill. 

Outdoor Storage Of Flammable Liquids 

There are a number of different ways that flammable liquids can be stored outdoors. However, in all instances, the storage method must meet the requirements outlined in section 4.1 - 4.8 of AS 1940:2017 for it to be compliant. 

The safest and most efficient method for storing flammable liquids outdoors is to use a chemical storage container that has been designed and constructed in full conformance to AS1940:2017.  

The Standard outlines specific requirements for flammable liquids storage containers  which includes details on:  

  • Spill containment  
  • Ventilation  
  • Signage  
  • Operation requirements

For a dangerous goods container to be compliant, it must have a spill containment sump that has the capacity to hold at least 100% of the largest package stored within the container, as well as 25% of the aggregate capacity of the storage container. 

Flammable liquids StorageChemical storage containers are a safe and compliant method of storing flammable liquids in an outdoor environment.

For flammable liquids storage containers storing quantities exceeding 10,000 L, the spill containment sump must have an extra capacity of 10% of the storage capacity between 10,000 L and 100,000 L as well as an extra 5% for capacities exceeding 100,000 L.  

Flammable liquids storage containers must also be constructed with a natural ventilation system. This allows the concentration of the flammable vapours to stay at a safe working limit. AS 1940:2017 states that a natural ventilation system must have at least 2 walls of fixed louvers with at least 50% of their area as openings.  

For the safety of those staff, supervisors and contractors who are working with flammable liquids, all chemical storage containers must have other operational safety features. For chemical containers storing quantities of flammable liquids exceeding 2000L, a safety shower and eyewash facility that complies with ANSI Z358.1 must be installed next to the storage container.  

Packages should also be kept inside the store in such a manner that they are prevented from falling or causing spillage outside the container.  

To warn workers of the potential risks associated with flammable liquids, chemical storage containers must be equipped with the correct warning and dangerous goods signage.  

The required dangerous goods signage includes a Class 3 Flammable Liquids diamond and the No Smoking No Ignition Sources Within 3 Meters sign — which is also the same signage required for your indoor stores of flammable liquids. 

Are Your Flammable Liquids Stored Safely and In Compliance? 

Thanks for reading our blog highlighting the requirements of flammable liquids storage in the workplace. As we’ve explained, it’s crucial that flammable liquids are stored in a safe, compliant manner to prevent property damage, environmental pollution and human  harm  occurring within your organisation. If you’d like to learn more about storage solutions that comply with the requirements of the Australian Standard AS 1940:2017, we have an eBook that can help. How To Reduce The Risk Of Flammable Liquids In The Workplace is a practical and easy-to-understand guide that will walk you through the compliant ways you can store your Class 3 Dangerous Goods. Grab your copy for free now.  

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Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Storage Specialist. He helps organisations reduce risk and improve efficiencies in the storage and management of dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals.

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