Can I recommission a safety cabinet to store other hazardous chemicals or Dangerous Goods? 

Oct 21, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

In this blog we’ll be looking at the 3 key reasons why safety cabinets should never be recommissioned. We urge you to only use safety cabinets that have been purpose built for the chemical hazard class you are storing (as chemicals react differently during storage) — and always conduct a proper risk assessment that considers the flashpoint, health hazards and explosive range of the chemicals.  

 

1. Construction

Safety cabinets are specifically manufactured to ensure that chemicals (and their vapours) are properly contained. We’ll look at the each of unique construction requirements for the primary hazard classes below: 

Flammable liquids 

Flammable liquids cabinets must be made of double-walled sheet steel and have componentry that can withstand temperatures of at least 850 °C. These cabinets are designed to be liquid tight and fully contain flammable vapours, for this reason the cabinets must have close fitting doors that close automatically. 

Refer to: AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids 

Organic peroxides 

Cabinets for organic peroxides require self-closing doors which are held shut by a friction or magnetic-type lock that will release if pressure builds up in the cabinet. They also require ventilation at high and low levels to prevent the build-up of toxic or flammable vapours. Organic peroxides are sensitive to changes in temperature, so their cabinets require additional insulation 

Refer to: AS2714:2008 — The storage and handling of organic peroxides 

Oxidising agents 

Cabinets for oxidising agents should be made of double-walled sheet steel — and the door hinges and catches must not be made of zinc die castings or any type of plastics. They require self-closing doors, but the catches must release in the event of pressure build up. 

Refer to: AS4326:2008 — The storage and handling of oxidizing agents  

Class 4 Dangerous Goods 

Class 4 substances are flammable, so cabinets and their componentry must be able to handle temperatures of at least than 850°C without melting or affecting the protective function of the cabinet.  

Class 4 safety cabinets also require doors that close automatically and are held shut by magnetic or friction-type locks. These locks must release if pressure should suddenly build up in the cabinet. 

If the Class 4 substance inside the cabinet are capable of emitting a toxic or flammable gas, ventilation via ducting is required to prevent back-pressure and direct the gases away from ignition sources — as well as places where people work or congregate. 

Refer to: AS5026:2012 — The storage and handling of Class 4 dangerous goods 

Toxic substances 

Cabinets for toxic substances are also made from double-walled sheet steel and have self-closing doors. But these cabinets must be fully lockable. 

When storing toxic substances, it is critical to keep vapours and fumes at safe concentration levels. If this cannot be achieved a mechanical ventilation system with ducting and extractors will be required. Any adjunct ventilation system must not affect the structural integrity of the cabinet. 

Refer to: AS4452:1997 — The storage and handling of toxic substances 

Corrosive substances 

Cabinets for corrosive substances must be constructed from (either) corrosion resistant material or have a protective coating that is completely corrosion-free.  

Cabinet doors must close automatically and fit tightly to contain corrosive vapours. They must not open inwards and be able to be opened from inside the cabinet. 

Refer to: AS3780:2008 — The storage and handling of corrosive substances 

Aerosols 

Aerosols cans of spray paint, varnish, and other flammables may be stored in a flammable liquids cabinet, but only if the cabinet has ‘projectile protection’ if the can was to malfunction or explode.  

Refer to: AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids 

 

 

2. Ventilation

The next reason not to recommission a safety cabinet is because of ventilation and vapour dispersement. Some cabinets (eg, flammable liquids) are designed to fully contain vapours while others (eg, oxidising agents) must have a mechanical ventilation system to ensure temperatures remain stable and pressure cannot build up within the cabinet.  

Eg, you definitely would not put organic peroxides in a flammable liquid’s cabinet. 

 

3. Residues

Another important reason not to recommission a chemical safety cabinet is because of chemical residues — especially if the chemicals were in liquid form. Chemical residues can accumulate in the spill sump, shelving componentry, corners and seams. 

This is potentially dangerous if the cabinet is then used to store another chemical or substance that is incompatible or capable of reacting with the original contents. 

Eg, you wouldn’t put flammable liquids in a cabinet that once held oxidisers, Class 4 Dangerous Goods, or organic peroxides. 

 

Next steps 

If you are thinking about recommissioning a safety cabinet to store another substance, please conduct a risk assessment that considers chemical residues, cabinet construction specifications, as well as ventilation requirements. And download our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors — flammable liquids cabinets have strict construction requirements that are not suited to other classes of Dangerous Goods. To ensure your Class 3 Dangerous Goods are stored legally and safely, download and read it today. 

Essential Considerations when Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors download Free eBook

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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