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.
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:
Flammable liquids should be kept away from chemicals or other substances that might act as an accelerant. The 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.
Bleaches, caustic cleaning fluids and ammonia are all common examples of the kind of chemical that should be kept in this sort of 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.
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.
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.