Several people were treated at a hospital in Danville, Virginia after inhaling acidic vapours created by accidental mixing of chemicals at a local water treatment plant. Such incidents are reminders of the importance to be cautious when dealing with chemicals at the workplace. Hazardous substances are not limited to TNT or Uranium. Things as harmless as motor oil or even soap can cause serious accidents when not handled properly. Imagine someone accidentally ingesting a cleaning fluid or slipping on spilled oil. Any decent workplace should have dedicated colour-coded cabinets for storing different things that can be deadly mixers. Salt and detergent look similar, as do beer and…well, so many other chemicals.
Legal Requirements and Colour Coding for Hazardous Cabinets
Hospitals, manufacturing, printing and metalwork industries, catering kitchens, hotels, schools, workshops, and almost every other workplace can use a hazard storage cupboard or two, if not more. All such industries that deal with hazardous chemicals, acids, paints, solvents, or alkalis are subject to the COSHH requirements, which make it compulsory for them to have appropriately colour-coded and marked cabinets for hazardous storage.
Hazardous cupboards come in yellow, red, green, and steel colours. Yellow cabinets are generally used for storing inflammable chemicals. The red cupboards are used for storing poisons, pesticides or other deadly materials. The rugged steel cabinet is used for storing acids and alkalis, and is resilient to chemical reactions caused by them. The green hazard cupboards are generally used for keeping production fluids, solvents, paints, etc.
Hazardous Storage Guidelines
The HSE does not specify the exact material or size of the hazard storage cabinets to be used in each and every environment, but provides useful guidelines to owners and workplace managers. For instance, the quantity of inflammable liquids stored in cupboards should not exceed 50 litres for highly inflammable materials that have a flashpoint below the maximum ambient temperature of the work-floor or room. Other inflammable liquids with a flashpoint up to 55° C are restricted to a maximum quantity of 250 litres.
The hazard cupboards must be placed in an area where means of escape exist in case of an accident involving the stored chemicals. The employers are liable to assess the risks associated with their industry or workplace and arrange for hazardous storage accordingly. All chemicals stored in a cabinet are to be assumed to be the same as the material with the lowest flashpoint. When thinking about mixing, the worst of possibilities are to be assumed for the purpose of storing different chemicals or materials together in a single hazardous cabinet.
Hazardous Storage Cabinet and Bin Material Requirements
The materials used in the construction of hazardous cabinets should be non-reactive and provide at least 30 minutes of resistance against fire. The lids, doors, hinges, and all joints of hazardous storage bins and cupboards should be free of gaps or slits. The lids and doors should close tightly against the frame and should have a small overlap over the frame when they are closed. The melting point of the material used in the supports and fastenings should not be less than 750° C. These are the minimum performance criteria and do not absolve the employers of their responsibility to provide robust and safe hazardous storage. Hazardous cabinets cannot be seen as a replacement for dedicated store rooms or outdoor storage for securing larger quantities of hazardous materials.
The above guidelines do not describe the subject of hazardous storage in its entirety. For more information about hazardous cabinets and flammable materials storage, please refer to the HSE website or your industry regulations. You can also ask us anything in your comments or via email.
The Workplace Depot carries a large variety of hazardous cabinets that can cater to the needs of any workplace. Our hazardous storage cupboards conform to the strictest legal and quality standards and will last a long time.
Posted in Health and Safety