Your safety cabinet is a high-tech risk control measure that’s specifically designed and constructed to reduce the possibility and impact of chemical spills, leaks and vapour emissions. But keep in mind, that just like any risk control measure in the workplace, your cabinet requires regular inspections and maintenance to ensure complete compliance. Here, we list 5 reasons to regularly inspect and maintain your flammable cabinets so you can meet the requirements of WHS Regulations and Australian Standards. While this list is in no way exhaustive, it’s a great place to start when developing a regular inspection and maintenance checklist for your own Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinets. Let’s get into it now.
1. Your Cabinet May Not Have Been Installed Correctly
Your safety cabinet was built to last, but that doesn’t mean that it was installed correctly all those years ago. If your cabinet was installed in a non-compliant way, or it’s been recently moved without adequate supervision and advice, it may not be meeting the requirements of the Australian Standard.
The first step in ensuring your cabinet is compliant is to make sure that it was installed in the right location and the correct manner.
AS 1940:2017 – The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids details the requirements for cabinet installation.
These cabinet location requirements are listed in Section 4.9.6 and include considerations such as:
- The location of your cabinet must not impede evacuation during an emergency, such as a fire or explosion.
- Your cabinet must not be located within 3 metres (measured laterally) of any workplace ignition sources such as powerpoints, welding tools, ovens or naked flames
- The aggregate capacity of the cabinet must not be greater than 850 litres per 250m2 on ground floor or 250 litres per 250m2 on other floors. Each aggregate quantity must be separated by at least 10 metres.
- Your cabinet must be installed on a ground floor or a floor with direct street access.
- It must not be installed closer than 3 metres to any wall that is common with another room – unless the wall is constructed of concrete or masonry to ceiling height or 3 metres above the top of the cabinet (whichever is less) and 3 metres to either side of the cabinet.
- The cabinet should never be installed in the following premises: residential or accommodation buildings, commercial buildings, hospitals, aged care buildings or school buildings.
Other considerations which can assist in the correct placement of flammable liquids cabinets include finding a position that protect the cabinet from the possibility of impact damage (ie being knocked over by a forklift or hit by falling tools).
You should also choose a flat, even surface for the cabinet to be installed on. This is to create a solid foundation for your cabinet so you can minimise the chance of the cabinet (and its contents) becoming unbalanced — and causing a dangerous chemical spill.
2. It Might Be Exceeding Maximum Storage Capacity
When selecting a flammable liquids cabinet for your workplace, one of the key considerations is choosing a cabinet that will comfortably meet your chemical capacity requirements. The maximum storage capacity of your cabinet is clearly marked on the front of the cabinet in the form of pre-installed signage.
Cabinets are made to cater for a range of capacities from small (15 litres) to large (850 litres), so it’s important that staff are aware of the capacity of the cabinet, so it’s not overloaded.
To ensure compliance and safety, make sure that your flammable liquids cabinet is not being loaded past its maximum storage capacity.
However, if your staff aren’t trained properly or if you have new team members (or contractors) using the cabinet, there can be a risk of your flammable cabinet being overloaded past its maximum capacity rating.
Loading a cabinet past this rating will negate the risk control measures of the cabinet and compromise the spill sump capacity. That means, that if there is a chemical spill or leak, your cabinet will not be sufficient to contain the hazardous chemicals — or the flammable vapours that they emit.
3. Your Flammable Liquids Safety Signage May Not Be Visible
One of the easiest ways to stay compliant is by making sure that your flammable liquids cabinet signage is in good condition. It should also be visible to staff, supervisors and contractors at all times, even when the doors of the cabinet are open.
According to the Australian Standard AS 1940:2017:
4.9.4 Cabinet marking
Each cabinet shall be marked with—
(a) the name and address of the manufacturer or, for imported cabinets, the distributor within Australia;
(b) the maximum storage capacity;
(c) a Class 3 dangerous goods label with sides of at least 250 mm nominal length; and
(d) a sign bearing the words ‘NO SMOKING, NO IGNITION SOURCES WITHIN 3 m’ in lettering at least 50 mm high. All signs and markings shall be clearly visible when the cabinet doors are closed.
To maintain a compliant flammable cabinet, make sure that all pre-installed safety signage is visible at all times.
Your cabinet comes complete with this signage so people in the vicinity of the cabinet can be made aware of the risks and hazards of storing Class 3 dangerous goods. What you can do is regularly inspect the signage — and have it replaced as soon as it’s in poor condition. Simple!
4. The Cabinet May Not Be Loaded or Stacked In The Right Way
We’ve touched on the importance of adhering to the maximum storage capacity of your flammable cabinet. But there are other factors to consider when staff are placing dangerous goods in your safety cabinet.
Is your flammable liquids cabinet stacked and loaded in the correct way?
Some things that you should consider include in your cabinet inspection and maintenance routine are checking that these requirements are followed:
- Only Class 3 Flammable Liquids are stored within the cabinet
- Chemicals should be stored in containers with caps
- If you’re stacking drums (60L or more), don’t put more than 2 in a stack
- Keep the spill sump clear and never store items in it
- There should be no combustible materials (ie packaging, paintbrushes, rags) within the cabinet
- Keep ignition sources at least 3 metres away from the cabinet
- The top of your cabinet should never be used as a shelf or storage area
By regularly inspecting your flammable liquids cabinet, you’ll be able to identify and change any dangerous or non-compliant practices. It will also encourage your staff to keep up good stacking, loading and housekeeping practices.
5. Damage or Wear & Tear May Have Occurred
While your flammable liquids cabinet is made of tough dual-walled steel, it can still be damaged or show signs of wear and tear if it’s not used in the correct way.
As part of your cabinet inspection and maintenance plan, you should take a good look at your cabinet — inside and out — to note any signs of damage.
Look out for signs of damage or wear and tear such as:
- Missing or broken cabinet components
- Chips in the paintwork
- Dents or scratches
- Doors that aren’t closing properly
- Shelves that aren’t straight or secure
- Handles that are damaged
- Splits in the steel
- Uneven cabinet legs
- Damage to the spill sump
- Missing or worn-out signage
Whether it’s a broken component or a chip in the paintwork, it’s important to keep your safety cabinet in top condition to maintain its safety and compliance. Get in touch with your cabinet manufacturer for advice on how to rectify any damage to your cabinet or the componentry.
Keeping Your Flammable Cabinets Compliant
Now that we’ve explained the 5 reasons why you should regularly inspect and maintain your flammable cabinet, we hope you have gained a better understanding of how this risk control measure is protecting your business. But remember – there’s many more reasons why regular inspections and maintenance are crucial for cabinet safety and compliancy.
To learn more about correctly installing, setting up and maintaining your flammable liquids cabinet, you can always reach out to our Dangerous Goods Storage Specialists. We’ve also put together a helpful (and completely free) eBook which can assist with the safe storage of flammable liquids. If you’d like to learn more about reducing the risk associated with Class 3 Flammable Liquids, click on the image below to access our guide, Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors.