Aerosol cans are a convenient way of storing and dispensing hazardous substances and they are found in just about every workplace you can think of. But Aerosol cans are classified as Class 2 Dangerous Goods and must be handled and stored legally and safely. And just how do you do that when there are so few references to aerosols in either the Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG) and the relevant Australian Standards?
This blog takes a look at some of the hazards that surround aerosol cans (based on real reports of workplace accidents and dangerous incidents) as well as our best advice about whether to store them in a dedicated aerosol store or a flammable liquids cabinet — both meet WHS requirements.
Hazards of aerosol cans
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the little cans we see on warehouse shelves that contain deodorant, fly spray and paint are actually Class 2 Dangerous Goods. But like other compressed gases, aerosols present a complex range of hazards surrounding the chemical properties of the substances stored inside, the pressure of the gas, the potential waste hazard, and the physiochemical properties of the actual canister (dispensing equipment, metal body). Now combine that with the busy operations at an industrial job site.
An aerosol can of spray paint is much safer on the sales shelf of a temperature controlled hardware store than when it is being used to mark a hot road by a paving machine operator. So many industrial accidents have occurred when a simple can of spray paint has overheated and exploded after contacting industrial machinery and operating plant.
Other reported workplace accidents involving aerosols include:
- Aerosol adhesive exploding and burning a worker after being left too close to a heat gun
- Can of whipped cream bursting through unopened storage crate and impacting a worker
- Can of cooking oil exploding and injuring 2 x commercial cooks after being left on hot plate
- Workers burned after shaking a can of paint which had got too hot, the can exploded
- An explosion at a busy cafe (large front window blew out) after the chef left a can of cooking oil too close to gas jets
Often overlooked is the potential waste hazard of aerosols, particularly if the can is past its use-by-date or a defective nozzle won’t allow the contents to be completely emptied. Placing aerosol cans in with regular refuse could present a fire and explosion risk and you should definitely include this in your risk assessment activities.
Flammable liquids stores
Many workplaces follow the guidelines of Australian Standard AS1940:2017 - The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids and choose to store their aerosols in a flammable liquids cabinet. Class 3 Flammable storage cabinets are constructed from double-walled sheet steel and have a space of at least 40mm between the walls. Shelving inside flammable storage cabinets is always perforated to allow the free movement of air and each unit is fitted with a spill containment sump (at least 150mm deep).
But one of the issues with flammable liquids cabinets is that any gaps around the doors and into the walls are sealed to prevent the entry of flames and radiant heat. So if an aerosol can exploded or began to vent the substance held inside, the chemicals wouldn’t be able to dissipate.
Another issue with flammable liquids stores is the spill containment sump. For flammable liquids storage it’s a safety essential but for aerosols definitely overkill. A dedicated aerosol store is a pragmatic and ultimately a more efficient option.
Aerosol storage cages
One of the best things about dedicated aerosol cages is they are sized perfectly so you can store the cans loose or within the original packing carton. And unlike the flammable liquids store, aerosol cages don’t waste space, weight (or construction costs) on a spill containment sump. It just isn’t required.
Aerosol cages are designed and manufactured in accordance with AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders and because of this they have perforated walls to meet the ventilation requirements of the Standard. The natural ventilation means the cabinet can be safely used indoors and they are much more efficient to produce because the doors don’t need to be self-closing and close fitting.
Dedicated aerosol cages are manufactured with a heavy duty construction, as the Australian Standard AS4332-2004 requires the cages to have sufficient strength to provide protection in the event of a fire which would cause the cans to explode. If you are considering a flammable liquids store you’ll need to factor in the level of projectile protection offered by the cabinet.
STOREMASTA’s range of aerosol cages start with a compact 12 can cage, right through to a 432 can capacity. Each cabinet is manufactured from heavy duty sheet steel, is finished in a high-build powder coat finish (anti-corrosion), and they are also fixed with the relevant safety signage and warning placards.
Still undecided about whether to store those aerosols in a flammable liquids cabinet or a dedicated aerosol cage? You can check out some of our other blogs about aerosols or look at our range of both flammable liquids cabinets and aerosol cages.
Your decision will ultimately depend on the unique operations of your workplace and we suggest including the storage of aerosol cans in your next risk assessment. If you need some help here why not download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: compliance and safety requirements. It will help you apply a tested risk management methodology to the gas cylinders, aerosols and other Dangerous Goods held at your worksite.