COSHH cabinets: A brief history

So what’s great about a COSHH cabinet? It’s almost 30 years since COSHH regulations were introduced, but there is still a misunderstanding about parts of the legislation, especially around the proper use of COSHH cabinets. Safety Storage Centre explains the essentials, and puts your knowledge to the test with a quick COSHH quiz.

Chemical storage has come a long way since the days of serried ranks of jars and bottles kept on open shelves like the ones in our picture, and with good reason. We are now much more aware of the possibility of harm that could be caused to ourselves and others by the chemicals we use in our everyday lives.

The need to recognise the potential hazards of everyday chemicals, and the way the risks from those hazards should be mitigated, was first formalised in law with the introduction of the COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Regulations in 1988.  Part of these legal requirements is the way chemicals must properly be stored. This is where the COSHH cabinet comes in.

COSHH storage cabinets are specifically designed to keep potentially dangerous chemicals – ones identified in the regulations as corrosive, harmful, irritant, poisonous or toxic – out of harm’s way. Which, in one way or another, is almost everything we use on a near-daily basis, and even more potentially dangerous in schools or places where children or vulnerable adults live and work.

So what is special about a COSHH cabinet?

This question is the main purpose of this article. Here at Safety Storage Centre we sell a huge range of COSHH cabinets. Very often we get asked by customers to explain what is so special about a COSHH cabinet compared to an everyday metal cupboard.

Firstly, every COSHH cabinet is made to allow safe storage of products that fall under the scope of COSHH storage guidelines. This leads to a resulting cabinet which is lockable with sturdy construction. However, that alone isn’t enough to make it special.

The key elements of a good COSHH cabinet are for it to be leak-proof, and for it to have a sump at the bottom to collect chemicals that may accidentally be spilled. This is absolutely critical. Basic metal cupboards are unlikely to be constructed with such features in mind so if there is a spillage then the liquid is likely to run down to the bottom of the cupboard and out through any gaps.

Another key feature of a COSHH cabinet is that its shelves will tend to have a raised edge to help in spill control. It will also have warning stickers on its doors, which is a hugely important visual deterrent.

Understanding all of this makes it obvious why any ordinary cupboard, metal or otherwise, just won’t do. COSHH cabinets really are the superheroes of safe storage.

COSHH Cabinets

Picture: Debramillet | Dreamstime

COSHH cabinet: consider the weakest link

The weakest part of any COSHH cabinet will always be the people who use it. It’s therefore important that everyone on the premises where the cabinet is used understands that unless they are authorised to lock and unlock it they shouldn’t attempt to use it.

Anyone who is authorised, and has been entrusted with a key, must make sure that the COSHH cabinet is kept locked whenever its contents are not being used, and it should never be left unlocked and unattended.

It is also crucial to remember that materials stored inside must be stored in their original containers and must be clearly labelled. It is vital that if two items could potentially cause a chemical reaction if any spillages were to mix then these items should be stored away from each other in separate cabinets.

How to choose the right COSHH cabinet

There are numerous options when it comes to choosing a COSHH cabinet and you should ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What does my risk assessment say about the need for COSHH cabinets?
  • How much do I need to store?
  • Is there room for moving things around inside without knocking others over?
  • Am I likely to need more storage in the future?
  • Should I get one big cabinet for everything, or two or more smaller ones?
  • Can the cabinet be fixed in one place, or would having one on wheels for easy movement be more appropriate?

Bonus COSHH quiz…

We are experts in safe storage. If you have any questions, please get in touch with us and we will happily help. As an extra bonus, test your knowledge on COSHH and hazardous substances by trying our popular quiz… (Feel free to use it to test your employees, too.)

Test yourself with our COSHH quiz

Take our COSHH quiz to see if you know everything you should about COSHH.

There can only be a tiny minority of people who have never heard the acronym COSHH. We all know what it stands for, and what we must do as a result. But do we? Is our knowledge as thorough as we might like?

Life as we live it in the 21st century is made possible by our mastery of thousands of chemicals in common use. Used correctly, they can add to the quality of life; used incorrectly, they can do exactly the opposite.

The biggest danger they pose comes not from the chemicals themselves, but from the way we use and store them. Those using these chemicals must be familiar with the correct use of COSHH Cabinets for safe COSHH storage. Familiarity with these products can allow sloppiness to creep into our attitudes to the way we use and store them.

Therefore, we’ve developed this simple COSHH quiz to let you discover how much you know, or thought you knew, about the risks you may deal with every day.

COSHH Questions and Answers (including a COSHH Symbols Quiz)

1. What does COSHH stand for?

A) Control of substances harmful to health;
B) Control of substances hazardous to health;
C) Control of substances hazardous to hands

2. Which of the following are not covered by COSHH regulations?

A) Germs;
B) Radioactive substances;
C) Fumes

3. What qualifications must you hold to do COSHH risk assessments?

A) IOSH;
B) NEBOSH;
C) None

4. A COSHH cabinet must always be secured to floor or wall. True or false?

5. COSHH regulations were first introduced into the UK in which year?

A) 1988;
B) 1998;
C) 2008

6. Significant findings from any COSHH risk assessments must always be recorded

A) for companies with 10 employees or more;
B) for companies with 5 employees or more;
C) for every company, regardless of the number of employees

7. If COSHH-controlled substances are present in a workplace, and dust may arise from them, good ventilation is necessary. How many complete changes of air per hour are recommended?

A) 1-3;
B) 3-5;
C) 5-10

8. Which of the following is NOT a requirement for a COSHH cabinet?

A) It must contain a series of drawers for small tins and bottles;
B) It must be constructed so as to be tamper-proof;
C) It must be lockable.

9. Any substance covered by COSHH can be stored in all COSHH cabinets. True or false?

10. Which of the following is COSHH NOT designed to protect?

A) Staff in hospitals;
B) Children in schools;
C) Workers in the offshore industry;
D) Vulnerable adults in care homes.

11. The illustration on this blog shows seven symbols associated with materials that might be associated with COSHH. What do they mean? (Score one point for each correct answer)

COSHH Quiz

 

 

 

 

 

 

12. If a COSHH cabinet is available, it is acceptable to use it for storing products in other than their original packaging, so long as the name of the contents is written on the alternative packaging in capital letters. True or false?

COSHH Quiz Answers

1 B;

2 B;

3 C;

4 False – mobile versions exist;

5 A;

6 B;

7 C;

8 A;

9. False. Flammable materials should be stored in fire-resistant COSHH cabinets;

10 None of the above. It is intended to protect all groups;

11) A = explosive; B = oxidising; C = corrosive; D = harmful to the environment; E = harmful; F = toxic; G = flammable;

12. False. Under no circumstances should products be stored in other than their original packaging.

How did you do in our COSHH Quiz?

Award yourself three points for each correct answer.

If you scored 40, you’re probably in a safety-related job. If you’re not, then you may have missed your vocation.

If you scored 30 or more, you’re probably careful at work, and understand both why COSHH is necessary and the consequences of ignoring it.

If you scored 18 or more, you probably need a refresher, and it would be advisable to speak to someone about ways to brush up your knowledge.

If you scored 9 or less, it’s a wonder you’re allowed out on your own, since you could well be putting not only your life at risk, but the lives of your colleagues too.

How to choose COSHH storage cabinets

COSHH storage is relatively simple once you are aware of the risks, and how important it is to protect people from them. Used in conjunction with the proper training and discipline, COSHH cabinets will protect the people in your business, no matter what it is, by keeping dangerous materials under control.

Our range of COSHH cabinets are of robust construction, and have a powder-coated finish as well as interiors designed to contain spills, should they occur. Specific detail about each of the products is available on its product page, but as a general word of advice we’d suggest you pick one that might appear to be larger than you need, to allow for business growth. However, don’t be tempted to use the space to buy more of the substances you intend to store than you actually need. Larger volumes usually translate into larger risks!

We are passionate about helping you and making your compliance obligations that little easier to manage. We would be keen to know how you did in our COSHH quiz so follow us on Twitter here and let us know how you got on!

Initially, think of what’s most important

Brevity created by shortening formal names into shorthand versions using their initials holds a danger that the purpose behind them can be lost. Pausing to think about what lies behind the initials, and why it’s there, is a useful way to remind yourself of their importance. We use the COSHH Regulations to illustrate the point.

BBC, PPE, MOT, and BLT; the verbal shorthand of our language is everywhere. By and large we know what it means. Take the four sets of initials we started with. You don’t even have to think about them, since the abbreviated form has become the accepted norm.

But there can be a danger with these verbal short cuts that the reality gets lost through over-familiarity, which as we all know, breeds contempt.

Take COSHH, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (2002), to give them their full title.

The role of COSHH

The purpose of COSHH legislation is to allow the use of hazardous substances in the workplace, but to spell out rules for the way they are used and stored in order to protect employees and the environment from the harm they could potentially cause.

And with that in mind, we’d like to offer an alternative set of words to attach to the COSHH acronym: Come and See me Here in Hospital. Thinking of that provides a reminder of what might be necessary in the event of too casual an attitude being adopted to materials covered by the legislation. With that in mind, we’d like to sharpen the focus on the regulations, and the implication for your employees – in order to avoid you having to exercise the hospital option…

Who’s covered by COSHH regulations

It would be a mistake to think of this legislation as being about ‘industry’ in the traditional sense. The Regulations are plain: the people being protected are ‘workers’, and in this case that means all employees, no matter what their job role, as well as university students and schoolchildren. Equally, everyone is covered, including visitors and people on placements, for example. In short, there’s a requirement to protect everyone close to a hazardous substance.

What substances come under the scope of COSHH regulations?

Oddly, no specific substances are mentioned in the legislation, though some are specifically excluded*. This is an indication of just how broad-reaching the legislation is, since it applies to types of substances: Chemicals, or products they’re found in, along with fumes, dust, vapours, gases, and even bacteria, are all covered. Consequently, the actual substances people must be protected from are extremely numerous.

* Radioactive materials, asbestos, and lead are sufficiently noxious to have their own specific legislation, so aren’t covered by COSHH rules.

How to assess my workplace risks

You’ll need to do a formal COSHH assessment. Things to look out for vary between locations as well as by processes. The Health and Safety Executive offers a very helpful selection of sample assessments to guide you through the assessment relating to your own situation – or one very much like it. Advice is offered about how to remove things you can do without, or control access to things that must stay.

Be thorough. There’s no doubt a list of substances that need to stay will be highlighted as hazardous in your COSHH assessment, and that means that the range of available protection, in the form of COSHH cabinets, comes in all shapes and sizes.

Always Seek Knowledge

Tell me about COSHH cabinets

The substances covered by the COSHH Regulations will usually dictate the most appropriate storage solution. A range of COSHH Cabinets offered by the Safety Storage Centre is designed specifically with COSHH compliance in mind, but the web site also offers one of the largest range of haz-chem cabinets on the web, and one of those might serve your COSHH needs equally well.

Wherever you buy your COSHH cabinet from, you’ll need to look and ask yourself these questions, and factor the answers into your buying decision:

• Is it the right size for what I need to store?
• Does it comply with COSHH and DSEAR regulations?
• Does is have a sump to catch spills?
• Is it made from strong material, using robust construction methods?
• Can the contents be segregated?
• Should I have a keyed or combination lock?
• Does it need to be fixed, or mobile?
• Does it have a smoke detector? Do I need one?

There’s much more to the COSHH regulations than can be covered in this blog, including a wealth of industry-specific information and guidance, available on the HSE web site. If you’re unsure, then ask. Safety Storage Centre staff are knowledgeable and helpful.

The knowledge dimension

Earlier I spoke about familiarity breeding contempt. This is arguably more true anywhere else than in dealing with hazardous chemicals. Because people using them have done so safely for long periods of time there is a danger that they can become immune to the hazards they are handling. And yet the dangers inherent in the substances are never diminished. It is therefore vital for everyone to be trained not only to understand what those hazards are, but also that they have a responsibility to use and store the materials correctly.

Keep workers safe

And finally remember that time spent in making sure you comply with the letter as well as the spirit of the COSHH Regulations will keep workers safe, and there will be no need to spend time hospital visiting or dealing with HSE inquiries into accidents.

A gram of prevention is equal to a kilo of cure.

The skull and crossbones marked a COSHH cabinet ahead of its time

Learn what the COSHH regulations are, what they mean to you, and how to protect people over whom you have a duty of care in the workplace by doing an accurate COSHH assessment. Safety Storage Centre illustrates products to help you, and advises on how to select the right ones.

COSHHIt is the skull and crossbones I remember the most. Roughly painted in black on the faded primrose yellow door, it haunted my early childhood, and I certainly never dreamed of opening the door to see what was inside.

The painting was on the door of a weary old kitchen cabinet in the garage round the corner at my friend’s house, where his dad did odd jobs, and where we were allowed to play on rainy days.

Plastic soldiers fought imaginary battles on that garage floor; Dinky toys were props in childhood driving games, and all were overlooked by the unseeing eyes in the badly-drawn skull.

Years later I found that the cabinet contained oils and greases; paint with lead in it, and a lot of other badly-labelled containers half-full of all manner of noxious materials that are probably no longer available. He’d been absolutely right to discourage us from looking inside.

My friend’s Dad was ahead of his time, I suppose, having invented the COSHH cabinet more than 30 years before introduction of the COSHH legislation that made it necessary. (I almost wrote that he’d unintentionally invented it, but the reverse was true. He had fully intended to keep our small boyish fingers away from things that could no doubt have done us a very great deal of harm).

What is COSHH?

COSHH stands for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, and is the name of legislation, introduced to the UK in 2002, giving employers a responsibility to reduce or prevent workers’ exposure to hazardous substances.

Significantly, the definition of ‘workers’ in this context applies just as easily to students in universities and children in schools – and ‘workers’ also covers people in offices as well as those in overalls.

What substances are covered?

Let’s start with what’s not covered. Lead, asbestos and radioactive materials are dealt with under their own legislation, and therefore not covered by COSHH rules.

However, it still leaves a huge range of materials that are within the legislation’s scope. Chemicals, or products containing chemicals, fumes, dust, vapour, mists, gases, and biological agents (germs, to you and me), are all there.

It’s important to note that these are ‘types of things’, rather than specific items. That means the list of actual substances employers (or school and university staff) are required to protect people from, could be extensive indeed.

How do I know what risks are around me?

You’ll need to do a COSHH assessment, and the things you’ll need to look out for vary from location to location and process to process. The Health and Safety Executive have a very helpful selection of sample assessments that will guide you through the process for your own situation – or one very much like it – and show you how to remove things that you can do without, or control access to things that must stay. In terms of schools, it’s a bit obvious, and the warning ‘Keep away from children’ sums it up very well.

There will no doubt be a list of substances identified as hazardous in your COSHH assessment, and that means that the range of available protection, in the form of COSHH cabinets, comes in all shapes and sizes.

COSHH cabinets

Safety Storage Centre offers a large range of hazardous-chemical cabinets, and one of those might serve your COSHH needs – but we also offer a specifically designed range of COSHH cabinets.

Wherever you buy your COSHH cabinet from, you’ll need to ask yourself these questions, and factor the answers into your buying decision:

• Is it the right size for what I need to store?
• Does it comply with COSHH and DSEAR regulations?
• Does is have a sump to catch spills?
• Is it made from strong material, using robust construction methods?
• Can the contents be segregated?
• Should I have a keyed or combination lock?
• Does it need to be fixed, or mobile?
• Does it have a smoke detector? Do I need one?

There’s much more to the COSHH regulations than I can usefully cover in this blog. Nevertheless I trust it’s given you food for thought and if you’re not already familiar with the rules, it might spur you on to find out more on the Health & Safety Executive website.

After all, keeping people safe is part of your duty of care as an employer…

Why not to use petrol to start a fire

News of another fire tragedy hit the headlines last week when a man died after being engulfed by flames when “priming” a bonfire with petrol. Some may view using petrol as an accelerant as reckless but my guess is that many people have done exactly the same without fully understanding the dangers.

COSHH CabinetSPetrol evaporates quickly when exposed to air which is why petrol and other flammable fuels and chemicals should always be stored in an air tight container. We all know that petrol is highly flammable but just how flammable is revealed by its flashpoint. The flash point is an indication of how easy a chemical may burn. Materials with higher flash points are less flammable or hazardous than chemicals with lower flash points. Petrol has a flashpoint of -45 Degrees Centigrade – the minus sign is not a mistake – so petrol will basically ignite at any temperature found in the UK.

What is less understood is the auto ignition temperature i.e. the minimum temperature required to ignite a flammable gas or vapour in air without a spark or flame being present.  For petrol the figure is around 280 Degrees Centigrade which is far less than the temperature of a naked flame.

When you pour petrol on a bonfire the fuel begins to evaporate. As a rule if you can smell it you are effectively stood in an invisible cloud of potentially flammable gas. The molecules in the gas are also invasive and will stick to clothing turning you into a tinder box. Once the concentration of gas in the air reaches a certain level termed the flammable range lighting a match or introducing other sources of heat will cause an explosion.

For this reason flammable liquids should always be stored in an enclosed air tight container in a purpose made COSHH Cabinets to prevent the build-up of explosive gases and protect the contents from accidental exposure to sources of heat.

Never use any flammable fuel to start a fire not even diesel or oil. Firelighters work out a good deal cheaper than car fuel and are very effective and most importantly safe.

Heavy snowfall increases risk of flood and theft

The heavy snow forecast to affect the whole of the UK at some point this weekend is further bad news for those businesses and homeowners at risk of flood. Snow, despite its picturesque effect on the landscape is rain by another name so when it thaws it can only add to the flood risk on already waterlogged ground. Now is the time to take added precautions to safeguard valuable stock and valuables by placing them out of reach of potential flood waters.
This precaution is doubly true if your business uses hazardous chemicals. It is advisable to consider raising hazardous storage cabinets well off the ground on steel stands available to suit most standard COSHH cabinets. Leakage of toxic substances into the environment can have devastating effects and if you are sited in a high flood risk area the environment agency will look to you for proof that sensible precautions were in place should a leak occur.


Valuables can also be stored in the same way in high security storage cabinets placed on stands, or in waterproof security chests and safes depending on the value and quantity of goods to be stored.
Another consequence of the freezing temperature is a significant increase in vehicle thefts. Criminals literally tour the streets looking for vehicles that have been left unattended on driveways with the engine running to defrost the car or van. This presents a golden opportunity for thieves to either steal the vehicle itself or rifle the contents in seconds for any valuables, laptops, tools and equipment.
Commercial vans and lorries can be fitted with lockable heavy duty steel van boxes and cabinets that bolt to the chassis for storage of expensive tools and equipment but that does not prevent theft of the vehicle if the thief has the opportunity. One tip is to use one key to start the engine to defrost and then use the spare key to lock the doors until you are ready to start your journey.
With a little care you can avoid falling victim to the unforeseen risks that the onset of winter weather can present.

Safety Cabinets and COSHH Compliance

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002, requires employers to ensure any chemicals and dangerous substances used on the premises are stored and handled in a way that minimises the risks posed by those substances both to the environment and to those in contact with the substances

This is a pretty broad brush requirement when non-compliance can result in punitive fines or even incarceration. So how do you go about complying with COSHH? The answer, as in virtually all health and safety legislation today is Risk Assessment. You need to analyse your business to assess any risks arising from the storage and handling of any dangerous substances. Any identified risks to the people working on the premises, visitors or any potential negative impact on the environment- should then be actioned to minimise the risks identified.

In practice start the process by identifying what constitutes a dangerous substance. Any hazardous chemical should be supplied with a safety data sheet and the container should be marked with a hazard warning label. Typically hazardous substances are classed as toxic, corrosive, acid, alkali, explosive or flammable. If you see any of these labels but don’t have a related product safety data sheet contact your supplier.

The data sheet should detail any incompatible substances that may compound the risks if they are mixed so as a golden rule it is better to store in different COSHH or safety cabinets manufactured for that specific group of hazardous substances, Acids with Acids, toxics with toxics, and so on. Flammables are a special category and come under the DSEAR regulations but the same principles apply.

Within the actual workplace only store the minimum quantity of dangerous substances possible- for example enough for a days work. Store any bulk quantities in a separate designated secure area away from the workforce.

Any staff handling dangerous substances should be properly trained in their use and properly equipped with appropriate personal protective equipment. Needless to say in the aftermath of an accident you may need to prove this so keep up to date training and safety records.

If a substance is clearly toxic or otherwise dangerous if released into the environment take adequate precautions to prevent leaks and spills, for example by storing in cabinets with spill trays or sumps. Despite this precaution the risk of a spill is still possible so have spill containment products available to contain and remove spills before they leak into watercourses and drains or seep into land.

Risk assessment is about being honest with yourself when assessing the potential risks your business generates. Cutting safety corners may save money in the short term but may ultimately cost lives as well as your livelihood and quite possibly your actual liberty.

Don’t get stuck under the COSHH

Health and safety seems to get the blame for everything at the moment – health and safety workers are often portrayed as party-poopers or fun spoilers in the media.

These negative stories often spring from the increasing litigiousness of society: the health and safety rules criticised as “fun spoiling” are often precautions put in place to stop silly accidents, prevent harm and injury to, say, school children, and ensure the school is legally protected by doing all they could to prevent risk.

The underlying importance of meeting health and safety regulation cannot be overdone – it is imperative, especially if a business handles potentially hazardous materials, to take the necessary precautions to minimise those hazards.

The correct storage of potentially hazardous materials plays a large part in that.

The guidelines regulating this kind of storage come under the umbrella of COSHH legislation (control of substances hazardous to health).

Many industries will use potentially hazardous products as part of everyday work: from mechanics to school teachers, bakers to hairdressers.

COSHH affects many industries and, as the old adage goes, you can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your safety, and that of your employees.

Simply bunging hazardous materials into a cupboard – even if it has warning labels – will not suffice. Instead, it’s worth looking for a COSHH cabinet which meets proper regulations, such as HSG51 and DSEAR.

What is COSHH?

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations is enforced to protect people in the workplace against health risks from hazardous substances either used or arising from their work. Typically this covers cleaning agents, solvents and chemical reagents used directly and also substances arising from work practices such as dust, fumes and waste by-products.

COSHH lays down a compliance framework to guide businesses on identifying and implementing the necessary precautions and is therefore an essential management tool. Evidence strongly suggests correct implementation of COSHH has the potential for identifiable cost benefits by reducing substance waste, misuse and the remedial cost of accidental spills.

COSHH applies to virtually all substances hazardous to health. Exceptions include asbestos and lead and substances which are hazardous only because they are radioactive, asphyxiants, at high pressure/temperature or have explosive/flammable properties. Most of these hazards are covered by other Regulations.

COSHH has legal teeth and should not be seen just as a code of practice. Prosecutions are regularly brought for infringements. Hazards to look out for are storing incompatible substances such as acids and alkalis in the same enclosure preferably COSHH rated hazardous Storage Cabinets, storing flammables close to a heat source, inadequate ventilation, inadequate safeguards against environmental pollution such as spill control and lack of PPE ( personal protective equipment) to protect the workforce.

A Step by Step Guide to implementing COSHH legislation can be found in our Advice pages

COSHH Storage Cabinets are not a catch all

During a visit to my local garage to have a suspicious noise in the car checked out, I noticed in the workshop what looked like one of our general purpose COSHH storage cabinets. The doors to the cabinet were partly open – which they should not have been under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002. Idling my time whilst the mechanic did his thing I took a sly look inside. In my partial view I saw some battery acid, solvent cleaning fluid and a couple of cans of oil plus a load of other cans and bottles in the darker recesses the contents of which I could only guess at.

Mindful not to aggravate the owner and risk my usual discount I said nothing but the incident did raise issues regarding the basic understanding of the regulations regarding the storage of hazardous substances.

It is true that a COSHH rated cabinet is perfectly acceptable for storing some dangerous substances. Although the operative words in the COSHH acronym are “Hazardous to Health” not all dangerous substances are necessarily so. So why do we have specific cabinets for Flammable Substances, Acids, Pesticides and so on? What the Garage owner clearly did not grasp were the H & S guidelines and regulations embodied within COSHH, REACH, DSEAR and the raft of UK and EU fire and safety legislation regarding the requirement to segregate and clearly identify incompatible hazardous substance in the workplace.

In addition when necessary the specialist substance Storage Cabinets include design features intended to enhance the security and protection afforded for the potential hazard of that specific substance. For example Flammables Storage Cabinets have sumps and spill trays and fully rebated doors to prevent flame ingress, pesticide cabinets have louvered vents to prevent fume accumulation, acid and alkali cabinets have zinc coated steel to reduce corrosion.

Acid/Alkali Hazardous storage cabinets demonstrate the issue of segregation very well. From the description you may think you can store acids and alkalis together in one of these cabinets. The opposite is the case. Acids and Caustic Alkalis are incompatible substances as they can create toxic fumes and even explosions when mixed. You should also separate acids from flammables, oils and grease, caustics from epoxies, ammonia from bleach and oxidisers from virtually everything else.

Accepting that few garage owners are qualified chemists it is understandably difficult to know what is acceptable storage practice. In general you should start by looking at the product label and hazard classification as guidance is more often than not given. If guidance is absent you should ask the supplier for the official data sheet.

As a guide you can view a general chemical compatibility chart in our advice centre but if in any doubt consult your nearest Health and Safety Department or an experienced H&S adviser.