When it comes to storing hazardous chemicals, there’s no such thing as “too safe!”
You may think you’ve got a good setup going – however, there’s always something you could be doing better.
For example, does your business use chemical storage cabinets for all of the dangerous substances you store on-site?
Chemical storage cabinets are a crucial part of chemical storage, especially if you deal with hazardous substances on a regular basis.
Of course, simply having these cabinets on-site isn’t always enough either…
The requirements for storing chemicals: what is the correct way to store hazardous chemicals?
Before we explain how chemical storage cabinets on their own aren’t enough, we need explain just what the heck these things are to begin with!
Essentially, these are dedicated cabinets, specially designed to store dangerous chemicals safely and to minimise the hazards they come with.
Depending on the type of substance it’s designed for, these cabinets can include:
- Ventilation for fumes
- Airtight seals to prevent leaks
- Insulation to maintain temperature
- Protection from ignition sources
Under Australian regulations, dedicated cabinets aren’t required if you’re only storing a small quantity – or “minor storage” in legal parlance.
According to AS1940-2017 – The storage and handling of flammable liquids,the specific cutoff point depends on what UN packing group the substance falls into.
- Packing group 1 & 2 (high and medium danger): more than 10L of of the substance in 50m2 of floor space
- Packing group 3 (low danger): more than 25L of the substance in 50m2 of floor space
Exceed these quantities, and you’ll need to instal dedicated chemical storage cabinets.
What chemicals need to be stored in flammable cabinets?
If you ask us, a better question to ask isn’t which chemicals need a dedicated cabinet, but rather, when it’s appropriate to get a cabinet installed at your workplace. It’s in the name, after all: hazardous chemicals.
- Is it a hazardous substance?
- Does your site exceed minor storage?
If so, you need a dedicated cabinet, simple as that!
More than just cabinets: storage requirements for hazchem cabinets
Now we’ve gotten groundwork out of the way, it’s time to tackle today’s big question: are chemical storage cabinets enough on their own?
If our opener didn’t tip you off, there’s always more you can do to stay safe around chemicals!
The rules around chemical storage can be incredibly complex – did you really think that just having the right cabinet would do the trick?
In addition to safety signs, Australia also requires extra steps to be taken when installing cabinets to ensure that they’re compliant – one of which is ensuring that your cabinets have the right signs and labels on them.
Depending on the substances you work with, that can include dangerous goods signs like:
- Hazchem signs and class diamonds
- GHS labels and signs
- Danger and warning signs
Each of these are required under Australian standards – however, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take it even further with other signs such as mandatory signs for PPE, or custom signs outlining your evacuation or emergency policies.
What does a danger chemical storage sign mean and how does it keep everyone safe?
One of the first things you might have noticed about chemical storage cabinets isn’t the ventilation, airtight construction or insulation – rather, the first thing you notice will be the colours.
Under Australian standards, the cabinets itself will have the appropriate colour lining up with its contents’ hazchem class (example: orange for explosives, red for flammables, etc).
So why bother with additional chemical storage signs? Simple: it ensures all of your bases are covered. What if:
- A visitor to the site is colourblind?
- You need to communicate more information than just the substance’s hazchem class?
- You have a unique emergency spill procedure?
- There are certain things that can cause a reaction with the substances you store?
Each substance is unique – while the cabinet might be able to safely store them, your team and visitors need to know how to stay safe. And for that, you need good signage!
Other chemical storage considerations
What is the best storage location for chemicals?
While there’s bound to be some variation owing to the attributes of individual substances, there are a couple of general rules that you can follow when it comes to choosing a storage location:
- Away from incompatible substances – some substances react negatively to one another, making segregation essential
- In open spaces – open spaces can reduce fume buildup if ventilation is not possible
- Ignition sources – fumes and vapours can leak out when the cabinet is opened and closed, making extra distance essential when choosing a storage location
- Access – in the event of a spill, staff need to be able to evacuate quickly, so make sure your cabinets are placed in a way that won’t block evacuation routes
Where should chemicals NEVER be stored?
Just as there are a couple of general rules when it comes to the best places for chemical storage cabinets, there are also rules that you can use to find out where you shouldn’t store chemicals.
For example, you don’t want to place them near potential ignition sources or areas where incompatible materials are stored.
It goes beyond the more obvious ones, though.
Above, we briefly mentioned the importance of considering accessibility. Specifically, by placing chemical storage cabinets near evacuation routes, a spill or fire can result in employees not being able to escape an emergency.
For example, say a fire breaks out. Just one problem: the fire is in a cabinet that’s right next to your emergency exit! See the problem?
Finally, Australian Standards forbid cabinets beyond a certain capacity from being installed at all at certain properties such as:
- Residential properties
- Aged care buildings and schools
- Non-industrial commercial property
Get all the safety signs your operation needs with Signsmart
Notice how even with all of the other safety features, signage still comes into the equation?
Make no mistake, workplace safety signs are a crucial part of keeping your workplace safe. Whether it’s EIP signs, warning panels, class diamonds or any other type of sign, your site isn’t safe unless it has the right signs.
And that’s where we come in.
And it isn’t just the signs, either – we understand that hazchem regulations can be confusing, which is why our team is here to ensure that you understand what you need to do to keep your team safe signage-wise.
Whether you need signs delivered quickly or simply need help understanding dangerous goods label meanings, our team can help!