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Types and Colours of Hazardous Storage Cabinets – Explained

Regardless of the industry you operate in, or the size of your business, you more than likely have some potentially dangerous chemicals on site at some time. These can range from obvious hazards like strong acids, pesticides and fuels to the less obvious, like bleaches and cleaning fluids. It is essential to keep these chemicals stored safely and to have well-defined plans for dealing with spills, leaks and dangerous mixtures, both to protect your staff, premises and customers and also to meet legal requirements. 

Here are our top tips for safe storage of hazardous chemicals, along with an overview of the types of dedicated cabinets available. 

Basic tips for the safe storage of chemicals 

  • Be proactive. Make a clear and easy to follow plan for the safe transport and storage of the chemicals you have on site, and ensure that staff are trained. 
  • Minimise risk. Make sure the site is optimised for safe storage – for example, containers should not be kept on uneven surfaces. 
  • Decant bulk chemicals. Store large quantities of chemicals in dedicated areas away from high-traffic areas and decant the quantity you need into smaller, dedicated and labelled containers as necessary.
  • Monitor your storage. Ensure that the chemical storage area is not prone to over-heating throughout the day and is well ventilated. Ideally, it should be secured against unauthorised access. 
  • Organise storage cabinets. Use common sense here; keep heavy items at the bottom of the cabinets, make sure that labels and hazard warnings are unobstructed, and keep chemicals that might react badly with each other separated. 
  • Adopt best practice behaviours. Using drip trays and chemical bunds, adhere to expiration dates and follow regulatory requirements. These are all a solid foundation for safe chemical storage. 

Chemical storage cabinets: which one(s) do you need? 

Depending on the types of chemicals you are storing, you will need a secure storage cabinet with specific features. Flammable liquids, for example, are mandated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to be kept in spill-retaining cabinets with fire-resistant properties. The cabinets available usually adhere to a standardised colouring system, with appropriate features: 

Red Cabinets for flammable storage 

flammable liquid storage cabinet

Flammable liquids should be kept away from chemicals or other substances that might act as an accelerant. The flammable liquids cabinet should be designed to hold back the spread of flames in the event of an emergency, ensuring that nearby staff can react.  

These cabinets should be marked with the ‘flammable liquid’ hazard warning sign, a red diamond containing a black flame on a white background. 



Yellow or Grey Cabinets for COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) storage 

COSHH Cabinet

Bleaches, caustic cleaning fluids and ammonia are all common examples of the kind of chemical that should be kept in a lockable COSHH cabinet. The main risks with these chemicals are exposure to skin, poisoning and combining to make something even more dangerous. As a result, the priority here is spill capture – so you might expect to find lipped shelves and lockable doors. 

Typically, these cabinets are marked with the ‘health hazard’ warning sign, a red diamond containing a black exclamation mark on a white background. 



White Cabinets for acid and alkali storage 

Acid storage cabinet

These cabinets are designed for both acids and alkalis, although the two types of substance should be kept well separated to prevent potential interaction. These substances are typically very corrosive and so the cabinet should be designed with this in mind. 

These cabinets should be clearly labelled with the ‘corrosives' symbol, a red diamond containing black test tubes spilling liquids onto a hand and a flat surface. 


Red or Green Cabinets for agrochemicals and pesticides 

These cabinets should be well ventilated to prevent the build-up of dangerous gases in the event of a leak or a spill. The type of chemicals stored here include common pesticides and weedkillers as well as more specialist agriculture-related chemicals. 

This kind of cabinet also uses the ‘health hazard’ warning label, a red diamond containing a black exclamation mark on a white background.

You should refer to the HSE  guidelines, as well as any other applicable regulatory bodies, when reviewing hazardous material storage cabinets. Also, check out our other articles on workplace safety for more tips and advice.