Did you realise that purchasing a flammable cabinet is only the first step in minimising your chemical and compliance risk? During follow-up audits and risk assessments, we often see cabinets that have been incorrectly installed and used — which means the cabinet can’t fulfill its function as a risk control measure. To make sure your cabinets are 100% safe, effective and compliant, we’ve created instructions on how to write a set of operating procedures for your flammable liquids store. Read on and discover our solid strategy for developing safety cabinet operating procedures for your own business.
Maintain the safety of your flammable liquids store by developing operating procedures to share with your staff, supervisors and contractors.
1. Commissioning and installation procedures
The purchase of a Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinet is usually the outcome of a risk assessment. However, often the person who carried out the risk assessment does not actually work in the area where the cabinet will be received and installed.
Therefore, your operating procedures should include checks for the following:
- Purchase order: Make sure the cabinet size is correct and suited to the quantity of the chemicals requiring storage.
- Receiving: Check the integrity of the cabinet and make sure it has not been damaged during delivery, site transfer, and installation.
- Location: Make sure the cabinet is installed in a location that does not exceed aggregate quantities, breach segregation distances, or create a fire or obstruction hazard.
- Surface: A flammable liquids cabinet must be installed on a solid, flat surface to ensure the spill sump and auto-closing doors operate properly.
Include in your operating procedures directions on how to choose the right location for your cabinet and install it in the correct manner.
2. Handling and Loading Procedures
Once your flammable liquids cabinet has been installed, you’ll need to train your workers to ensure the cabinet is loaded and used properly.
The operating procedures for cabinet usage should include instructions about:
- Never loading the cabinet past capacity.
- Unless recommended otherwise, storing flammable liquids containers upright.
- Ensuring chemical drums and containers are fully inside the cabinet — and the doors freely close without assistance.
- Only storing Class 3 Flammable Liquids inside the cabinet.
- Never using the lower spill compound as a storage area.
- Removing chemical containers from cartons and packaging material before putting into the cabinet.
How your staff use your cabinet can affect its safety and compliance. Make sure you include instructions on stacking, loading and general usage.
3. Maintenance and Monitoring
Safety cabinets may fall into disrepair in busy work environments or outdoor locations. Even though the cabinet itself is made from double-walled steel with a corrosion resistant finish, impact damage or everyday wear and tear may affect the integrity of the cabinet.
Make sure you carry out regular maintenance and inspections, specifically checking:
- Integrity of shelving.
- Functionality of self-closing doors.
- Regular cleaning of the spill sump.
- Visibility of cabinet warning signs and markings.
- Register of hazardous chemicals is intact.
- Obstructions between the cabinet and emergency shower/eyewash.
- Correct loading and segregation of chemicals.
- Signs of corrosion or rust.
- Evidence of impact (dents, tears, holes) or other damage.
To maintain the integrity of your flammable liquids cabinet, you should carry out regular inspections and maintenance.
4. Control of Hazards
Your operating procedures should include measures to prevent ignition sources, incompatible substances and other hazards near flammable liquids cabinets.
We suggest the following inclusions in your procedures:
- Restricting access to Dangerous Goods storage areas.
- Monitoring external contractors and site visitors to ensure they follow site rules.
- Supervising workers to ensure they follow operating procedures.
- Prohibiting any type of ignition source or hot work (welding, cutting, brazing, grinding etc) within 3 metres of the cabinet.
- Banning workers and contractors from bringing personal items into flammable liquids stores (eg, lighters, electronics, gadgets).
- Preventing vehicular traffic from entering the area.
Ensure that any type of ignition source or hot work is not permitted within 3 metres of your flammable liquids cabinet or store.
Good housekeeping practices in and around your flammable liquids store are an essential factor in keeping your cabinet in top working order.
Operating procedures should always have scope for ongoing housekeeping and area upkeep.
Developing good housekeeping practices for your flammable cabinet and work area will assist in ensuring 100% safety and compliance.
Consider including the following in your set of operating procedures:
- Not allowing combustible items to build up in the area surrounding the cabinet.
- Putting chemical containers back in the cabinet immediately after use.
- Ensuring chemical containers have their lids secured.
- Checking containers for signs of cracking, damage, or leaks.
- Wiping down containers that may have flammable liquids spilled down the sides while pouring or decanting.
- Keeping the top of the cabinet clear — ie, not storing files, extra chemicals, or combustibles on top of the cabinet.
- Clearing the spill sump as soon as a chemical leak or spill is discovered, then wiping down walls and shelves.
- Safely disposing of spilled chemicals and clean-up materials, rags and utensils.
6. Refinement, Training and Enforcement
When you reach the last stage of writing your operating procedures, it’s time to call in your teams. Once you have developed your policies and procedures, they’ll need to be issued to workers and refined according to their feedback.
Don’t forget that everyone that works with the cabinet — or within the work area — will require training. There’s no point in training your staff to properly use the cabinet if a contractor comes onsite with an ignition source.
Once your operating procedures are finalised, it’s time to train your staff, supervisors and contractors in the correct practices.
Make sure your operating procedures are the basis for a training session that includes your workers, supervisors and contractors.
Considerations may include:
- Including the procedure in job descriptions.
- Ensuring workers understand that following the procedures is now a condition of their employment.
- Have supervisors enforce the procedure via inspections, direct monitoring, and addressing non-compliance with immediate corrective actions.
- Taking disciplinary action in cases where workers are repeatedly ignoring procedure.
REMEMBER: It’s a requirement of the WHS Act and Regulations to ensure the workers who will implement, follow and enforce the operating procedures are consulted and involved in their development and implementation.
Operating Procedures To Keep Your Cabinet Compliant
Now that you’ve read our blog, do you feel confident that you’ll be able to develop operating procedures for your flammable liquids store? If you’re still looking for guidance on reducing your chemical and compliance risk, we have an eBook that can help. Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors details all the requirements you need to consider when keeping your Class 3 Dangerous Goods in an indoor location. Our eBook will take you through your legal compliance obligations — as well as offering expert advice on choosing, installing and maintaining a flammable liquids cabinet at your workplace. Get your free copy now by clicking on the image below.