Flammable solvents are common chemicals that are widely found in industries such as pharmaceutical, chemical, gas, oil and manufacturing. However, as flammable solvents are recognised as Class 3 Liquids, they must be handled and stored in a way that reduces risk. If flammable solvent storage is not deemed compliant, chemicals may be capable of emitting sufficient flammable vapours to spark a fire or explosion in the workplace. The incorrect storage of solvents can also result in harm to workers, such as hazardous vapours causing asphyxiation or spilt chemicals burning the skin or permanently damaging eyesight. In this blog, we’ll be detailing the flammable solvent storage guidelines for the workplace — and explaining how you can safely store these chemicals to reduce risk.

Examples of Flammable Solvents

Solvents are potent chemicals which are used to dissolve a solute, which results in a solution. There are many different types of flammable solvents that are commonly used in the workplace.

Flammable solvent storage-1

To determine your flammable solvent storage requirements, refer to AS 1940:2017.

Some examples include:

  • Turpentine
  • Paint thinners
  • Acetone
  • Toluene
  • Methyl acetate
  • Ethyl acetate

What are the Risks?

As solvents can ignite in the presence of an ignition source, they must be stored in a safe and compliant manner to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and property damage.

If flammable solvents (and other flammable liquids) aren’t stored correctly, it could result in an:

  • Uncontrolled chemical spill
  • Fire and/or explosion
  • Asphyxiation
  • Chemical burns
  • Acute health issues
  • Destruction of property and vehicles
  • Toxic fumes in the event of a fire
  • Soil and water contamination
  • Harm to wildlife and/or farm animals

These solvents are recognised as being highly volatile chemicals which can emit large quantities of flammable vapours.

While some Class 3 DG only ignite at certain temperatures, flammable solvents can cause a fire or explosion if the ambient temperature is below 60 °C. This temperature is referred to as the chemical’s flash point.

Many workplaces will have chemical storage and handling areas that are within the temperature range that is conducive to flammable vapour ignition.

Therefore, due to the high risk of ignition, care must be taken to ensure that flammable solvents are handled and stored in such a way as to reduce the risk of:

  • Concentration of flammable vapours
  • Likelihood and impact of a chemical spill
  • Harm to the community (protected and public places)
  • Reactions with incompatible substances and materials

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Flammable Solvent Storage Guidelines

These solvents must be stored and handled in full conformance to the Australian Standard AS 1940:2017The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids.

AS 1940 outlines the requirements for flammable solvents, as well as other flammable liquids and combustible substances.

We’ll explain the key guidelines for flammable solvent storage in further detail below.

Indoor Solvent Storage

If your organisation uses smaller quantities of Class 3 chemicals, you may choose to store them safely indoors. When considering indoor storage for your solvents, a flammable storage cabinet is a compliant option.

Flammable cabinet closed

Features of a compliant cabinet include signage, non-combustible construction materials, liquid-tight spill containment sump and perforated shelving.

However, there are restrictions as to what quantities of Class 3 liquids are stored in flammable cabinets. There are also requirements that affect the location of the cabinet itself.

Maximum Quantities

The maximum quantity of flammable solvents that can be stored in an indoor flammable cabinet is 850L. In addition to this, no more than 850L of flammable storage cabinets can be installed per 250 m2 of workshop floor space.

Any flammable cabinet must be installed in a position that does not impede emergency evacuations. 

Larger Capacity Cabinets

Larger capacity cabinets, that are greater than 250L, must only be installed on floors with direct street or ground floor access. They should also not be placed closer than 3 metres to common walls —unless the wall has been constructed of concrete or masonry (to ceiling height or 3 m above the top of the cabinet, whichever is less, and 3 m to either side of the cabinet).

Also, the Standard explains that cabinets with a capacity more than 250L should not be installed in:

  • Residential buildings
  • Accommodation buildings
  • Commercial buildings
  • School buildings
  • Aged care buildings
  • Hospitals

Flammable Cabinet Construction Requirements

The design and construction requirements for Class 3 storage cabinets is very strict. It includes  specifications such as:

  • Double walled sheet steel construction for the roof, floor, doors and wall of the cabinet
  • This double walled sheet steel construction must have at least a 40mm air gap between the walls.
  • Self-closing, close-fitting doors that automatically hold shut with catches at two or more points.
  • The base of the cabinet must form a liquid tight sump that is at least 150 mm deep. This sump must be designed in a way that prevents packages from being stored within.
  • All shelves within the cabinet must be perforated to allow for free air-movement.
  • All gaps around the doors of the cabinets must be sealed to prevent the spread of flames and heat radiation.
  • The materials of any components on the cabinet that are critical to its structural integrity must not melt at temperatures below 850 °C.
  • Each flammable storage cabinet must be marked with signage:

Outdoor Solvent Storage

If your organisation needs to store more than 850L of Class 3 solvents per 250 m2 of floor space, you will have to store these larger quantities of flammable liquids solvents outdoors.

Storing larger quantities of Class 3 solvents outdoors reduces the risk of harm to people and property in the event of a chemical spill or workplace fire.

The requirements for outdoor storage differ from the requirements for indoor Class 3 storage.

Some of outdoor storage requirements include:

  • Larger spill containment capacity
  • Natural ventilation provisions
  • Heavy duty construction requirements
  • Provision of emergency decontamination equipment

Flammable Solvent Storage Containers

The design and construction requirements for outdoor flammable liquids storage containers are outlined below. These solvent storage guidelines allow larger quantities of Class 3 chemicals to be stored in the outdoor environment — without creating extra risk for people, property or the environment . However, keep in mind that the maximum quantities that you’re allowed to store outdoors will depend on the type and packing group of the solvent that you’re storing, as well as the location of the chemical store.

Flammable liquids outdoor store

When storing flammable solvents in the outdoor environment, you must ensure that you meet the requirements of AS 1940.

Spill Containment Requirements

The spill containment capacities required for outdoor flammable liquid storage containers differ depending on the quantities of flammable liquids stored inside the container. These differing capacities are outlined below:

Facilities storing less than 10,000L

Spill containment capacity = 100% of the largest package within the store + 25% of the aggregate capacity of the store.

Facilities storing between 10,000L - 100,000L

Spill containment capacity = 100% of the largest package within the store + 25% of the aggregate capacity of the store + 10% of storage capacity between 10,000L and 100,000L.

Facilities storing more than 100,000L

Spill containment capacity = 100% or the largest package within the store + 25% of the aggregate capacity of the store + 10% of storage capacity between 10,000L and 100,000L + 5% of the storage capacity exceeding 100,000L

Ventilation Requirements

To avoid the risks of workplace fires, all outdoor flammable liquids storage containers must be ventilated to keep the concentration of the flammable vapours below the workplace exposure standards.

An efficient and effective way to ventilate flammable liquids storage containers is to have a natural ventilation system. AS 1940 states that a natural ventilation system on an outdoor store can be achieved by having at least two walls of fixed louvers which are open to the air. This encourages the free flow of fresh air through the flammable storage container.

Emergency Decontamination Equipment

As well as being extremely flammable, these solvents are also very toxic. This means that the staff who handle these chemicals can be at risk of human harm from ingestion, absorption or inhalation.

Solvents can easily spill onto skin or be sprayed into the eyes of workers. So, to reduce the risk of human harm, all outdoor flammable liquids storage containers must be located next to emergency decontamination facilities.

All flammable solvent storage facilities must have an eyewash station installed within 10 metres of the store — but no nearer than 2 metres.

When the outdoor flammable liquids storage container is storing more than 2000 L of flammable solvents, a safety shower must also be located within 10 metres, but not nearer than 2 metres.

Understanding Solvent Storage

By selecting a flammable cabinet that’s been constructed to meet the requirements of AS 1940, you’re on your way to creating a safer workplace that’s free from risks. To find out more about chemical risk reduction, you can download our helpful eBook. How To Reduce The Risk Associated With Flammable Liquids will assist you in determining your flammable solvent storage needs, as well as introducing you to our simple 4-step risk management methodology. Access our free guide today by simply clicking on the image below.

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