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.

A guide to Hazardous Storage

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002, places an obligation on employers to ensure any chemicals and dangerous substances used on the premises are stored and handled in a way that reduces the risks from spills and misuse both to the environment and to those in contact with the substances. What follows are some key actions and provisions you can adopt to ensure you comply with the legislation.

A risk assessment of your site and working practices is the starting point to identify any dangerous chemicals and substances and then to ensure their safe containment, take steps to protect employees from harm and prevent leakage into the environment.

Always read and follow the safe use, storage and disposal instructions on the product label. If you purchase a product that is classified as hazardous, it will be marked with an appropriate haz-chem label and come with a Safety Data Sheet (SDS). An SDS describes the hazards the chemical presents and will give you information on safe handling, storage and emergency measures in case of accident.

Guide to Chemical Incompatibility by Hazard Class

Always store chemical based products in their original containers so that you can read the label for directions on their use, storage and disposal. If you have to transfer hazardous product to other containers such as dispense bottles clearly mark the container with the contents and return to safe storage after use. Never transfer flammable liquids, pesticides or toxic cleaning products to soft drink bottles, uncapped jugs or food containers. Even adults, may mistake them for something to eat or drink.

Store flammable products outside the workspace in locked flammable cabinets or a purpose built fuel store and well away from heat and sources of ignition. Site chemical and fuel storage tanks as far away from water courses, drains and dykes as possible and install bunds to contain leakage.

Only hold sufficient stock of hazardous substances within the workplace necessary for the job in hand. Use COSHH approved flammable storage cabinets or flammable liquid storage containers (with secure lids) to store flammable and combustible liquids not exceeding 50 litres in any one work room.

Never store pesticides or other hazardous products in cabinets or fridges where food is stored. Ideally pesticides should be stored in lockable pesticide cabinets. Toxic and biological hazards should preferably be stored in secure fire proof cabinets to BS EN14470-1 and BS EN14470-2 British Standards with integral ventilation systems

Store inorganic acids in COSHH Chemical Storage Cabinets that have corrosion resistant interiors and door hardware. Flammable storage cabinets are not corrosion resistant and should not be used for inorganic acid storage. All COSHH rated cabinets have secondary containment in the form of spill trays or sumps to contain leaks and spills.

As a general rule store any hazardous substances away from sources of heat and direct sunlight. Heat and sunlight may impact and degrade chemical properties, ignite combustible vapours, deteriorate storage containers and fade labels making identification difficult.

When using hazardous substances ensure air ventilation to the workspace is adequate and operators are equipped with personal protective equipment e.g. masks, goggles and gloves, appropriate to the hazard.

Never mix different cleaning chemical fluids or pesticides. Chemical reactions can occur creating dangerous gases and in some cases exothermic reactions with the potential to cause fires and explosions.

Always dispose of unwanted chemicals particularly petroleum based products and pesticides responsibly to protect the environment. Do not tip down drains, into drainage dykes, rivers or onto the land.

Segregate incompatible chemicals to prevent accidental mixing of chemicals which can produce toxic gases, combustible vapours and exothermic reactions likely to produce heat, fire or explosions. The chemical compatibility table provides guidance for segregated storage of incompatible chemicals.

Finally have emergency numbers for fire and emergency services and the environmental agency in a convenient place in case of emergency.

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.

Top Ten Tips for the safe storage of chemical in the home

    1. Always read and follow the safe use, storage and disposal instructions on the product label.
    2. Store harmful household products and pesticides out of reach of children and pets. Store in a locked COSHH cabinet in a utility area or garden store with lots of ventilation.
    3. Store flammable products outside the living space in locked flammable cabinets and far away from places where they could catch fire. Keep flammable products away from portable heaters, electric heaters, central heating boilers and outdoor grills.
    4. Never store pesticides or other household products in cabinets where food is stored, or near food intended for people or animals. Never store pesticides where you keep medicines. Ideally pesticides should be stored in lockable pesticide cabinets.
    5. Always store chemical based products in their original containers so that you can read the label for directions on their use, storage and disposal.

bakingsodavinegar

  1. Never transfer flammable liquids, pesticides or other household products to soft drink bottles, milk jugs or other food containers. Children, or even adults, may mistake them for something to eat or drink.
  2. Never mix different cleaning fluids or pesticides. Chemical reactions can occur creating dangerous gases and in some cases exothermic reactions with the potential to cause fires and explosions.
  3. Always dispose of unwanted chemicals particularly petroleum based products and pesticides responsibly to protect your environment. Do not tip down drains, into drainage dykes, rivers or onto the land.
  4. Look out for new products that are less hazardous and environmentally friendly such as Propylene Glycol antifreeze or use safer alternatives. A combination of vinegar and baking soda is good at clearing blocked waste pipes.
  5. Have emergency numbers for fire services, environmental office and your doctor in a convenient place in case of emergency. Seconds save lives.

 

 

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.

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.