Using Flammable Cabinets – Safely Storing Hazardous Liquids

Flammable liquids and solids need to be stored in a fire rated flammable cabinet. This will ensure your business complies with regulations for safe storage of hazardous substances.

Flammible Cabinet in Yellow

Our guide looks at the regulations, how to use a flammables cupboard for storage, and where they should be placed in your work area.

How Should Flammable Liquids be Stored?

The dangerous substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 say that the risks from indoor storage of flammable liquids should be reduced by two things:-

First, quantities of dangerous liquids held in the workplace should be kept to a minimum. Second, by putting in place measures to reduce the risk of foreseeable incidents.

A key part of the requirement to reduce risk is making sure the flammable liquids are properly stored.

Flammable Liquid Storage Checklist

When not in use for work purposes, containers of flammable liquids should be:-

  • Stored with their lids closed.
  • Kept in a suitable flammable chemical storage cabinet or bin.
  • The cabinet or bin should be fire resistant, and able to contain a spill of 110% of the contents of the largest container usually kept in it.

Storing Different Types of Flammable Liquids

Flammable liquids stored separately from other dangerous substances that may pose a fire risk, or a risk to the integrity of the storage bin or cabinet.

For example, corrosive materials, oxidisers, or energetic substances.

If your workplace has more than one type of dangerous substance that needs to be stored, multiple cabinets will need to be used. Even if the other types of substance are also flammable, they must be stored separately to reduce fire risks.

You can find further information on storing energetic and spontaneously combustible materials by obtaining Health and Safety Guidance 131 which is published by the Health & Safety Executive.

Where Should Flammable Cabinets be Kept?

The regulations say that flammable liquid storage cabinets must be kept away from the area they are being used whenever possible.

A cabinet containing flammables should never be placed between the work area and the designated fire escape route.

What is a Flammable Cabinet?

Flammable cabinets are specially designed storage containers which meet the guidelines of the Explosive Atmospheres regulations.

They will protect flammable contents from fire for an extended period of time to allow those in the work area time to react, and safely escape. They are also designed to capture any spills which may take place within the cabinet, removing a possible ignition source from the workspace.

The best way to comply with the regulations and reduce the risk of foreseeable incidents is to get a specially designed flammable liquid storage cabinet.

How Should a Flammable Cabinet be Used?

HSE has the following guidelines for how much flammable liquid should be stored in a flammable cabinet:-

  • For extremely and highly flammable liquids, and liquids with a flashpoint below the maximum ambient temperature of the workspace – 50 litres.
  • 250 litres for liquids with a higher flashpoint of up to 55°C

These are guidelines, and it’s up to individual businesses to conduct appropriate risk assessments on storing these types of materials.

What Should be Stored in a Flammables Cupboard?

There are a number of flammable and combustible substances which might be needed in the workplace, which will need to be securely and safely stored.  

The following types of substance must be stored in a flammables cabinet:-

Combustible and Flammable Liquids

The difference between combustible and flammable liquids is their flashpoint. The flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which the liquid will produce a concentration of vapours above its surface which will ignite if given an ignition source.

Combustible liquids have a flashpoint of between 38°C (100°F) and 93.3°C (200°F). Flammable liquids have a flashpoint of below 37.8° Celsius (100°F)

It’s important to check the flashpoints of all flammable and combustible liquids that enter the work area. Examples of common liquids which may need to be stored in a flammables cabinet include diesel, petrol, paint, thinners, and alcohol.

Combustible and Flammable Solids

Although liquids are commonly recognised as the biggest risk that may need to be stored in a flammables cabinet, some solids can be dangerous too.

Examples of combustible and flammable solids which may pose a risk in the workplace are:-

  • Matches – these will readily ignite when exposed to friction.
  • Magnesium – a highly flammable metal which needs to be exposed to heat to ignite.
  • Nitrocellulose – This was commonly used in old film and negatives. These types of item are highly flammable and very difficult to extinguish once alight. The material is also used in the production of lacquers.

Flammable Gases

Gases will burn when exposed to air and an ignition source.  Storing cylinders of flammable gas can be dangerous even when an appropriate storage cabinet is used.

In some conditions, small amounts of gas can leak from containers and can ignite in the right conditions.

Examples of flammable gases include:-

  • Propane
  • Natural gas
  • Acetylene
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Methane

Explosive Chemicals

Explosive chemicals can be very unstable. They can explode when exposed to friction, heat or shock. Some explosive chemicals are so sensitive they can be activated simply by brushing past the container.

The danger from explosive chemicals can increase over time as they degrade and become more unstable. This highlights the need for secure and locked storage cabinets so that untrained staff cannot come into contact with the materials.

Oxidising Chemicals

Oxidising chemicals will release extra oxygen when stored at room temperature. During a fire, these substances can accelerate the spread of flames.  

To improve workplace fire safety, these types of chemicals should be stored in a suitable flammable cabinet. Substances to be aware of include hydrogen peroxide, bleach, and nitric acid.

If you need to safely store items that are not flammable but are hazardous, you may find our guide on using COSHH cabinets helpful.

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