Choosing Hazardous substance storage cabinets

When you first look at the vast range of hazardous storage cabinets you may be forgiven for asking why so many and what’s the difference. On the face of it all the cabinets are COSHH compliant i.e they meet the basic requirements of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations so why not go for a basic COSHH cabinet rather than the substance specific options for flammables, pesticides and acid and alkali’s?

The first question to answer is what specific types and how much of these hazardous substances do you have to secure to comply with COSHH legislation. Secondly you need to be aware of the dangers of storing incompatible substances in the same cabinet. Acids do not go with alkali’s and flammables should be segregated from all other hazards. Aggressive and toxic chemicals such as systemic agricultural pesticides are a direct hazard to health and are subject to additional controls, some requiring licences to store and use. In extreme cases, particularly involving bio hazards specialist cabinets to BS EN14470-1 may be required.

The substance specific cabinets offer more protection and are not just different coloured versions of the same cabinet. Flammable storage cabinets have deep spill tray shelves and deep sumps with welded seams to prevent leakage. Rebated doors prevent accidental exposure to naked flames. An Acid and Alkali cabinet has similar features but are made from Zintec steel for added corrosion resistance. Pesticide Storage cabinets also feature additional louvred ventilation to prevent the build-up of toxic fumes and have galvanised steel rather than powder coated shelves. Of course all the cabinets have hazard specific corrosion resistant powder coated finish, quality key locking for access control and security and hazard specific warning labels.

For those storing hazardous substances on site the different colour coded finishes provide a further benefit in an emergency – particularly a fire emergency – as irrespective of the warning label the fire and rescue services can quickly identify at a distance the type and location of any hazardous materials present. Storing different types of hazardous substances in the same anonymous Cabinet is a hazard in itself so assess the risks carefully and make the right safety choices.

Specialist Storage Solutions for Highly Hazardous Substances

Having explained the basic difference between COSHH and DSEAR compliant hazardous storage cabinets I now return to the issue of more specialist applications where additional precautions are required.
Highly Flammable Liquids (HFL’s) present by far the greatest fire risk in the work environment as they have the potential to self ignite when exposed to low ambient temperatures defined as 32 degrees centigrade or less – air temperatures exceeded in the mini heat wave only a couple of weeks ago.  If your organisation regularly uses HFL’s such as Acetone or Toluene it is not always a sufficient safeguard to store these substances in a standard DSEAR rated hazardous storage cabinet.

From a fire hazard standpoint It is recommended that the maximum quantity that may be stored in standard cabinets and bins is no more than 50 litres for HFL’s with a flashpoint below the maximum ambient temperature of the workroom/working area; and no more than 250 litres for other flammable liquids with a higher flashpoint of up to 55°C (DSEAR ACoP L135, par.40).

You can overcome these restrictions by using specialist fire proof storage cabinets. Typically these are constructed with double skinned insulated walls and doors with fireproof door seals and have in built ventilation systems that exhaust to atmosphere or through air recirculation scrubbers. The Asecos range of fire proof storage cabinets incorporate leading edge design and technology to prevent the temperature within the cabinet from rising above ambient for up to 90 minutes giving ample time for a fire to be brought under control.

They are also used extensively for the storage of biological and environmentally hazardous substances particularly in clean rooms and research and development laboratories where the financial cost of material damage or loss due to fire may be considerable.

The storage of large quantities of toxic and corrosive substances also requires special attention. Under COSHH highly toxic substances such as pesticides and corrosives such as acids and strong alkalis such as caustics should be segregated. To facilitate this hazardous storage cabinets designed specifically for these substances are available. Pesticide/Toxic cabinets have all the attributes of COSHH cabinets with the addition of ventilation grills to prevent the build up of fumes. Acid/Alkali cabinets have an additional corrosion resistant finish. It should be noted that you should not store Acids and Alkalis in the same cabinet as in certain cases they can chemically interact causing an exothermic reaction that risks an explosion or fire. These cabinets are colour coded and carry the applicable hazard identification label.

You will find further information and guidance in our advice pages but if you are unsure or require a solution to your specific storage application please contact us here or call your local HSE office.