Storing Up Trouble

During the recent cold spell many businesses and domestic consumers, I amongst them, were left without heating oil supplies. In desperation people were forced to find whatever containers they could and trawl the local suppliers for emergency supplies. This was not easy and I for one was forced to introduce some expensive diesel to the tank to get me through. As a consequence domestic and business users were transporting and storing extra quantities of fuel many without knowledge of current safety legislation for flammable substances.

For reference the good news is that for Heating Oils and Diesel, under the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) there are no specific legal requirements on the quantity allowed either in workplaces or domestic premises. They are not, from a health and safety point of view, classed as particularly hazardous substances within the context of DSEAR – as their higher flash point means that their vapours will not ignite anywhere near normal room temperatures.

Kerosene and diesel do however constitute an environmental hazard, incurring high clean-up costs if they should leak into a drain, watercourse or the soil. Also if they are caught up in a fire they will contribute to fire intensity and spread so safe containment is essential.

When not in use, containers of flammable liquids needed for current work activities should be kept in sealed containers and stored in suitable fire-resisting cabinets or bins which are also designed to retain spills (110% volume of the largest container stored in it).

The recommended maximum quantity of highly flammable liquids, i.e. with a flash point below the maximum ambient temperature of the workroom, that may be stored in DSEAR type flammable storage cabinets and bins should be no more than 50 litres. For other flammable liquids with a higher flashpoint of up to 55°C no more than 250 litres is recommended.

The amount of petrol that can be kept in a domestic garage or within six metres of a building is a maximum of two ten litre capacity metal containers or two suitable plastic containers with a maximum capacity of five litres each. Under no circumstances should the petrol containers be stored in the home itself.

The design of our standard flammable storage cupboards is intended to provide a physical barrier to delay the involvement of the stored materials in a fire and limit exposure to the flames and hot gases for sufficient time to allow safe evacuation.

If your working practices require internal storage of quantities of highly flammable liquids above the recommended maximums then you are well advised to consider fire proof storage cabinets conforming to the BS EN 14470-1:2004 Standard. Unlike single skin cabinets that segregate from flames but not heat the EN14470 cabinets have stringent design specifications covering the fire resistance of the complete cabinet that prevent the internal temperature from rising above preset limits protecting the contents from fire damage or destruction for up to 90 minutes. Although their use in the UK is not yet a legal requirement under DSEAR legislation for excess storage quantities employers may find installing BS EN14470 cabinets with enhanced fire performance helps in justifying the integrity of their risk assessment as well as protecting valuable assets.