Why does my flammable liquids cabinet have self-closing doors? 

Oct 7, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

In Australia, safety cabinets for storing flammable and combustible liquids should have doors that automatically close, and are held shut with at least 2 x fail-safe catches. This is a requirement under Australian Safety Standards. In this blog, we’ll be unpacking the functions and legalities of self-closing doors and why they are considered a chemical safety essential.

 ‘All cabinet doors shall be self-closing, close-fitting and held shut automatically by catches at two or more points.’ Australian Safety Standard AS1940:2017 – The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids 

Are self-closing doors necessary? 

Australian Safety Standard AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids recommends that storage cabinets have self-closing doors. Self-closing doors fulfil three critical functions: 

1. Heat barrier

Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinets are specifically designed to create a heat barrier that protects the chemicals inside the cabinet from fire. At the same time, if the flammable liquids in the cabinet happened to ignite, the fire would also be contained. 

The doors, walls, and roof of these cabinets are made from double-walled sheet steel and gaps around the doors (and between the dual walls) are sealed to prevent heat radiation and flames from breaching the cabinet. Keeping the cabinet doors closed is crucial to the functionality of the 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. Inhaling 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 death — if the chemicals are toxic or corrosive and inhaled in high concentrations. 

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

REMEMBER: Under Australian WHS Regulations all workplaces must company with the Workplace Exposure Standards issued by Safe Work Australia. 

3. Liquid tight enclosure

Self-closing doors ensure cabinets retain their functionality as a liquid tight enclosure, capable of containing any leaks and spills from breached or damaged chemical containers. All business who carry hazardous chemicals must have spill management controls to contain leaks or spills (including the resulting effluent). This is one of key reasons we urge you to prohibit your workers and contractors from propping open the doors of the cabinet. 



Can we prop open self-closing doors when we are busy loading or unloading the cabinet? 

Don’t prop the doors of your Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinet open with sticks, bits of wood, pallets, or machinery. You could damage your cabinet, plus you’ll be in breach of AS1940:2017.  

According to the Standard, cabinet doors can be equipped with a device to hold them open (only when necessary) BUT the device must be capable of releasing the door (so it closes) if the nominal temperature reaches 80°C.  

The other reason we dissuade the practice of propping open cabinet doors is because workers can easily forget to close them again. This can quickly escalate into a habitual practice of leaving the doors open all day. 


Do I have to follow Australian Standards? 

There is no legal requirement to follow Australian Standards unless they are specifically mentioned in legislation. But, AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids is an industry-accepted Standard and acknowledged by WHS Regulators right across Australia.  

It details the technical, construction, and installation requirements of storage cabinets for flammable liquids, and the overall purpose of this Standard is to improve safety wherever flammable and combustible liquids are used, stored, or handled. 

 If you choose not to comply with the Standard you would need a convincing risk assessment that details other hazard control measures you have in place that will minimise the fire, explosion, and exposure hazards that relate to the flammable liquids. 

REMEMBER: 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.  


Next steps 

Would you like more information about how a Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinet with self-closing doors reduces the risk of chemical spills, fires and explosions? Please download our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids IndoorsIt will help you understand the specifications of Australian Standard AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids and how to reduce your chemical compliance risk. Download and read it now by clicking on the image below:  

Essential Considerations when Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors download Free eBook

Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Storage Specialist. He helps organisations reduce risk and improve efficiencies in the storage and management of dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals.

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