Why schoolboy foolishness means you need the correct chemical storage cabinets

Chemicals are all around us in everyday life, and their safe storage is controlled by legislation. Safety Storage Centre looks at the anatomy of chemical storage cabinets to show why they facilitate to keep universities and colleges on the right side of the law.

An elderly lady living near us spent many happy years as a school dinner lady, and would often recount the stories of her experiences and the things done by the children in her care.

One of her favourites involved Harry, a cheeky seven-year-old prone to getting himself into scrapes. She recalled being approached by several of Harry’s friends in a state of high excitement. Their spokesman piped up: “Miss, Miss, please Miss, Harry’s washed his hands and his arms, Miss, right up to the elbows, Miss!”

Although hand washing before meals was to be commended, she thought, going right up to the elbow was perhaps a tiny bit excessive. Then came the punchline: “But Miss, he hasn’t rolled his sleeves up, Miss!”

Don’t be prone to foolishness when storing hazardous chemicals

The incident of Harry’s sleeves serves to illustrate perfectly that people are prone to do irrational and illogical things, and often require protecting from themselves. When it comes to chemicals, such protection is enshrined in legislation in a number of ways, but thorough implementation of the regulations requires specialist storage solutions like chemical storage cabinets in industry and education alike.

They wouldn’t have helped Harry, of course. He was in a primary school in the 1950s, so the only chemicals he was every likely to get close to were out of harm’s way on a high shelf in the cleaner’s cupboard, which was always kept locked.

However, chemicals are used in other educational establishments, and even at Universities we hear of student pranks that step beyond the bounds of common sense, potentially in the lab as well as out of it.

Chemical storage cabinets and the law

Chemical Storage CabinetAll manner of chemicals were once stored on open shelving in dark glass bottles bearing labels in Latin, just like those in our picture, but times have changed significantly. The regulations for a chemical storage cabinet dictate their physical features.

For example, safe storage calls for segregation, secure storage and transport of corrosive acid and alkali substances, and is covered by COSHH 2002, Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR), Paragraphs 94-96, along with appendices A & B and Paragraph 104 in the DSEAR ACoP L136 together with the factory Inspectorate’s Certificate of Approval No. 1 parts 3 and 4.

That’s a mouthful, which is why Safety Storage Centre has done the investigation for you, and put together a range of chemical storage cabinets which comply with all of those rules.

And that means you can expect to see:

• Construction using 0.9m steel
• Solid seam welds
• Corrosion resistant materials
• Powder-coated finishes
• Fully rebated doors
• Two-way locking handles
• Liquid-tight sump trays
• Appropriate hazard warning labels

These cabinets recognise that there may be a need for their contents to be used in more than one location, and are therefore some are fitted with sturdy wheels to allow them to be moved to the point of use in complete safety.

Given the important role played by your chemical storage cabinet, it pays to make sure you’re buying it from a reputable supplier.

Safety Storage Centre offers a range of top quality lab storage products in a variety of sizes, all sharing the same qualities that mean they meet the required standard. Visit www.safetystoragecentre.co.uk

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.