Keeping your indoor flammable liquids cabinets safe, effective, and compliant

Jul 10, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

You’ve purchased a brand new flammable liquids safety cabinet and your Class 3 Dangerous Goods are now safely stored behind double-walled sheet steel. But you have an obligation under section 37 of WHS Regulations to ensure that this hazard control measure is maintained so it remains effective. In this blog we discuss each of the requirements of the Regulations to ensure your flammable liquids cabinets remain safe, effective, and compliant.

1. Fit for purpose

According to Section 37 of the Regulations, hazard control measures including safety cabinets must remain fit for purpose. Determining if a flammable liquids cabinet is ‘fit for purpose’ is more than checking what chemicals are inside the cabinet. You should be checking for things like:

  • Size and type of storage containers. Eg, Is there a large container in the cabinet that prevents the doors from closing properly? This would render the cabinet unfit for purpose.
  • Location of the cabinet. Eg, You need to store flammable liquids on the 3rd floor of the building where there is no direct street access, an 850 litre cabinet would NOT be fit for purpose.
  • Surrounding environment. Eg, You need to store flammable liquids indoors, so an outdoor chemical store with vents and perforated walls which cannot prevent vapours from escaping would not be fit for purpose.

Your workplace should implement a series of post-installation checks to ensure that the cabinet that was purchased and installed, is the same as any recommendations in your risk assessment.

 

2. Suitable for the nature and duration of the work

A shiny new flammable liquids cabinet may initially be suitable to hold your flammable liquids in a high-output manufacturing area, but after 3 years that same cabinet may no longer be fit for the task. To remain compliant with Section 37 of the Regulations we recommend carrying out regular inspections of your safety cabinets. This includes checking for:

  • Corrosion, damage to paintwork or powder coat finish (chips, scratches).
  • Dents and other impact damage.
  • Deteriorated signs that are hard to read (or missing completely).
  • Worn, damaged and broken componentry.
  • Doors that stick, jam or don’t create a proper seal.

In a challenging or high-use area you may require a heavy duty flammable liquids cabinet that is made from 25% thicker steel than standard cabinets and a corrosion-free finish.

 

3. Installed and setup properly

Purchasing and installing an indoor flammable liquids cabinet sounds simple enough. But you have an obligation to ensure the equipment is installed and setup correctly from the get-go. Your workplace should be undertaking post-installation checks to verify the following 2 essentials:

(a) Correct location

Make sure your cabinet is not blocking or interfering with emergency access and exit zones; ensure the cabinet is within a ’10 second’ reach of first aid and emergency decontamination equipment; checking you have not exceeded aggregate chemical quantities; ensuring large capacity cabinets are not placed above ground floor level (unless there is direct street access).

(b) Sufficient ventilation

You must keep the concentration levels of chemical vapours within workplace exposure standards at all times. After your cabinet has been installed you should ensure that vapours are not escaping into any room and are always directed away from ignition sources.

 

4. Being used correctly

The  #1 issue our Dangerous Goods Auditors witness at the worksites of our clients, is safety cabinets, gas bottle cages and chemical stores not being used correctly. Misusing a safety cabinet negates the effectiveness of the equipment as a hazard control measure and puts you in direct violation of Section 37 of the WHS Regulations.

Here’s a few examples of things we see:

Issue

Compliance

Solution

Storing containers in the lower compound (ie, spill sump) of a flammable liquids cabinet. 

The lower compound of a flammable liquids cabinet is to be left clear for catching leaks and spills. It must never be used as a storage area.

Use a larger capacity cabinet or install a second cabinet.

Storing mixed classes of Dangerous Goods inside the cabinet.

Only Class 3 Flammable Liquids should be stored in the cabinet. Different hazard classes have different storage requirements, plus incompatible substances may cause a fire, explosion, or dangerous chemical reaction.

Implement tighter housekeeping standards. Use a cabinet with in-built  segregation areas.  

Overloading the cabinet.

Each cabinet has a spill compound based on the maximum capacity of the cabinet. Overloading the cabinet will increase vapour concentrations and potentially put the air and breathing zones above workplace exposure standards.

Supervise workers and don’t allow misuse of cabinets. Install additional cabinets if chemical stocks increase.

Using an indoor cabinet outside.

Flammable liquids cabinets may only be used outdoors if they have been constructed to withstand prevailing weather conditions, impact and have suitable ventilation. 

Purchase a flammable liquids store that was purpose built for outdoor use.

Covering signage (or allowing it to deteriorate).

Flammable liquids cabinets have strict signage requirements and must remain visible when the doors are closed.

Carry out daily inspections on chemical safety cabinets and ensure that signs are not covered or blocked. Immediately replace damaged or deteriorated markings.

Placing matches, lighters, or items that could generate static electricity inside the cabinet.

Ignition sources must never be put inside a flammable liquids cabinet. 

Provide appropriate storage for subsidiary items. Enforce proper housekeeping.

 

We also recommend keeping combustible materials out, and away from the cabinet. Eg, remove chemical containers from cardboard cartons and packaging before placing in the cabinet. Do not use the cabinet as a shelf for tools, paperwork and combustible items.

 

Next steps

Are the flammable liquid storage cabinets at your worksite installed and setup properly? Are they being used correctly? If you have any questions, queries, or comments, feel free to contact one of the friendly team here, on live chat, or call 1300 134 223 at any time... After all, we're here to help!

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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