If you’ve recently bought a flammable liquids cabinet to store your flammable and combustible liquids, you may be wondering why it is equipped with self-closing doors.  Well, the self-closing doors are not only a convenient feature of your cabinet, they’re also part of the chemical safety measures — protecting your workplace from the risk associated with storing Class 3 Dangerous Goods. In Australia, a flammable liquids  cabinet is required to have doors that automatically close and are held shut (with at least two fail-safe catches). This isn’t just a safety recommendation, it’s a requirement under Australian Standards.  

In this blog, we’ll answer some of the questions that we often get asked about the function  of self-closing cabinet doors. We’ll also be unpacking your legal requirements and explaining why self-closing doors are recognised as a chemical safety essential. 

Are Self-Closing Doors Necessary? 

Australian Standards recommend that Class 3 Flammable Liquids storage cabinets are equipped with self-closing doors. 

The standard explains:

'All cabinet doors shall be self-closing, close-fitting and held shut automatically by catches at two or more points.’ AS 1940:2017 - The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids

Self-closing doors on flammable cabinets fulfil three critical safety functions: providing a heat barrier, vapour containment and a liquid-tight enclosure. Next, we’ll look at each of these safety functions in more detail below: 

1. Heat Barrier

Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinets are specifically designed to create a heat barrier that protects the chemicals inside the cabinet from a workplace fire. Alternatively, if the flammable liquids inside the cabinet ignited, the fire would also be contained within the safety cabinet. 

How to prevent workplace fires involving flammable liquids 

The self-closing doors on a flammable liquids cabinet assist in creating a heat barrier that protects the stored chemicals.

The doors, walls and roof of these cabinets are made from double-walled sheet steel for insulative protection. Gaps around the doors (and between the dual walls) are sealed to prevent heat radiation and flames from breaching the cabinet. Therefore, keeping your flammable cabinet doors closed is crucial to maintain the functionality of your cabinet.  


2. Vapour Containment

Indoor flammable liquids cabinets are also designed to contain chemical vapours. Vapours from flammable liquids are heavier than air and can quickly spread over long distances (and remain in their flammable range). It’s important they aren’t emitted from the cabinet. 

Apart from being flammable and potentially explosive, chemical vapours are hazardous to human health.  

The inhalation of chemical fumes can cause: 

  • Immediate dizziness, drowsiness and impairment — workers could easily make a mistake while performing work tasks or operating machinery. 
  • Coughing, eye and throat irritation — if the chemicals are irritants or corrosive. 
  • Asthma, respiratory complications, lung damage — especially when inhaled over extended periods. 
  • Unconsciousness and possibly death — if the chemicals are toxic or corrosive and inhaled in high concentrations.

Ensuring the doors are always closed minimises the concentration of chemical vapours in the breathing zones of workers. Therefore, it helps you keep chemical concentration levels within the legal workplace exposure standards.

The self-closing doors of your flammable cabinet also provide the important function of containing hazardous vapours — so they don’t meet ignition sources or other incompatible chemicals 

Schedule a Storemasta appointmentIf flammable vapours drift close to an ignition source or an incompatible substance, they  can cause severe damage to workplaces and the surrounding environment. Vapours are a serious workplace risk which can result in fires, explosions or hazardous chemical reactions.  


IMPORTANT: Under Australian Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations, all workplaces must comply with the Workplace Exposure Standards For Airborne Contaminants which is issued by Safe Work Australia. 

3. Liquid Tight Enclosure

Self-closing doors ensure cabinets retain their functionality as a liquid tight enclosure. Your flammable cabinet is designed to contain any leaks and spills from breached or damaged chemical containers.  

SpillageTo provide effective chemical spill containment, flammable cabinets need self-closing doors to prevent leaked liquids from escaping the cabinet.

All businesses that carry hazardous chemicals have a legal obligation to provide spill management controls. This is so any chemical spills or leaks — as well as the resulting effluent — can be properly contained, managed and cleaned up.  

One of key reasons your cabinet is fitted with self-closing doors is to reduce the likelihood and impact of a chemical spill or leak. As your cabinet is designed and constructed to provide a liquid-tight spill containment solution, its ability to provide an effective risk control measure is negated if doors are left open.   

Can We Prop Open Self-Closing Doors When We Are Busy Loading Or Unloading The Cabinet? 

The short answer to this commonly asked question is, ‘No.’ Please don’t prop the doors of your Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinet open with sticks, bits of wood, pallets or machinery.  

Not only could propping open your self-closing doors damage your cabinet, you’ll also be in breach of AS 1940:2017.  

Do you need your cabinet to be equipped with a device that will hold them open when necessary? According to the standard, if your cabinet is equipped with such a device, it must be capable of releasing the doors if the nominal temperature reaches 80°C. This is because the cabinet acts as a protective barrier for your chemicals in the event of a fire, and the mechanism to hold the doors open will then be triggered by unusually high room temperatures. 

SC250A-minIt’s important that your staff don’t prop the doors open of your flammable cabinet as keeping the doors open negates the safety and compliance features of the cabinet.

There is another reason that we discourage staff propping open cabinet doors — and that is because it’s all too easy to get distracted with other tasks and accidently leave the doors open.  

You don’t want to create a situation where your workers are habitually leaving the cabinet doors wide open, as this creates a serious workplace hazard. A compliant flammable cabinet is specifically designed and constructed for your protection. So, make sure you allow the cabinet to do its job — by ensuring that the self-closing doors are unobstructed at all times. It’s that simple. 

REMEMBER: Your safety cabinet is only effective if your team know how to use it correctly. Don’t forget to train your staff, supervisors and contractors in the correct procedures so they can use and maintain your flammable liquids cabinets in a safe and compliant manner.  

Do I Have To Follow Australian Standards? 

There is no legal requirement to follow Australian Standards unless they are specifically mentioned in legislation. However, AS 1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids is an industry-accepted standard that’s acknowledged by WHS Regulators right across the country.  

The overall purpose of this standard is to improve safety wherever flammable and combustible liquids are used, stored, or handled. It clearly details the technical, construction and installation requirements of storage cabinets for flammable liquids, so it’s easy for businesses to meet their compliance obligations. 

How to structure a chemical risk assessmentWhile there is a legal obligation to follow WHS Regulations, it’s an industry-accepted practice to follow the requirements that are laid out in the Australian Safety Standards.

If you choose not to comply with the requirements of the Australian Standardyou would need a convincing risk assessment in the event of a workplace incident. Your risk assessment would have to details other hazard control measures that you have in place that will minimise the fire, explosion and exposure hazards that relate to the flammable liquids. 

DID YOU KNOW: One of the key features of STOREMASTA flammable liquids cabinets is our patented SAFE-T-CLOSE system — a unique design that guarantees the doors on your cabinet will close automatically (and in sequence) every time. The system is fail-safe, and because the doors close in sequence they cannot jam. Ever.  

Safe Storage For Flammables 

Are you interested in unpacking more information about the safe storage of Class 3 Flammable Liquids? You can find out more about chemical compliance by accessing our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors. This helpful eBook is an easy-to-understand guide that will help you understand the specifications of Australian Standard AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids. You’ll also be given all the facts about how you can reduce your chemical compliance risk. We want you to create a safer, compliant workplace and encourage you to maintain your self-closing doors to reduce the risk of chemical spills, fires and explosions. So why not download your copy and read it now? 

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