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.

 

 

10 Common Household Chemicals

It is surprising how many dangers lurk in products we use almost every day in the home and at work. Here’s a rundown on the 10 most common hazardous substances that are virtually guaranteed to be in every home in the land.

Antibacterial surface cleaners contain ammonium based or phenolic chemicals that are very irritating to the eyes and skin and will burn your throat so care should be taken particularly if using a spray type product. It’s advisable to wear latex dishwashing gloves to help protect your skin when using these cleaners.Jessica Rohrer painting: household cleaning supplies

Window and Glass liquid cleaners and aerosols may be irritating to the eyes, skin, nose, and throat. If swallowed, they may cause drowsiness, unconsciousness, or death.

All-purpose cleaners commonly contain Ammonia, Ethylene Glycol and sodium hypochlorite cause severe irritation to the skin, eyes, nose, and throat and can be highly poisonous if swallowed. Some of these poisonous chemicals also have an odour attractive to animals and pets.

Oven cleaner is either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide commonly called Lye or caustic soda, is extremely corrosive, and can burn skin and eyes. It is usually fatal if swallowed.

Automatic dishwashing detergents can produce skin irritations or chemical burns, are poisonous if swallowed.

Air fresheners are used in various places throughout the home and contain four basic ingredients formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, p- dichlorobenzene, and aerosol propellants. Air fresheners are usually highly flammable and can cause irritation to eyes, skin, and throat. Solid block type air fresheners usually cause death if eaten by people or pets.

Petrol and Solvents are highly flammable and petrol vapours mixed with air are potentially explosive and highly flammable. Serious lung injury may occur if droplets of petrol are inhaled and drinking petrol is more often fatal. Petrol also causes skin damage and prolonged exposure can affect the nervous system.Household cleaning products ***ALL BRAND NEW, UNOPENED"

Lubrication Oil contains some chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer (carcinogens). If disposed of improperly for example down the drain or onto the land it poses a very serious threat to the environment because it is toxic to fish and birds. Just a pint of motor oil in water can form an oil slick almost 5000 square yards in area. That’s equivalent to a football field! Flammable cabinets are ideal to store oil.

Antifreeze containing Ethylene glycol is very poisonous when swallowed and can be absorbed by the skin. It will cause severe damage to the heart, kidneys and brain and ultimately cause death. It has a sweet smell attractive to animals including pets that could be killed by licking or drinking the fluid. Clean up any spills immediately and wear rubber gloves when handling. Propylene Glycol is a new alternative that is much less toxic.

Oil-based paint contains organic solvents that can be irritating to eyes and skin, and can cause cracking of skin. Inhaling paint fumes can result in headaches, nausea, dizziness, and can make you feel very tired if you breathe in the fumes for too long.

NEVER mix different kinds of cleaners together, especially if one contains ammonia and the other contains chlorine. This can produce a gas called chloramine that can be fatal if inhaled.

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.

Safe Storage of Hazardous Chemicals

With such a wide range of hazardous chemical storage cabinets available it is understandable that it is not always crystal clear which chemicals are safe to store together. Flammable substances, Acids, Alkalis, Toxics and oxidising agents are all chemicals of one type or another but may be incompatible and dangerous to store together. The following information gives some guidance on the basic principles for the safe storage and segregation but should not be taken as exhaustive.

As a rule store like materials with like and always segregate incompatible substances to prevent dangerous interactions. All chemicals storage containers should have a label on them identifying their hazard category (e.g. flammable, acid, alkali, oxidising, toxic etc.) It is always recommended to examine the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and manufacturers recommendations for more specific and detailed information.

Flammable solvents should be stored in specialised metal flammable solvent cabinets that are clearly labelled. The vapour forming above the liquid of these solvents represents the main danger from an accidental ignition source -even a spark. Ideally position the cabinet away from doors or other means of escape from the laboratory. DSEAR recommends that no more than 50 litres of highly flammable material may be kept in a flammable cabinet in any one room to reduce the risk of a serious fire. Quantities of other compatible flammable substances with a higher flashpoint up to a total of 200 litres may be added.

Flammable solvents must never be stored with oxidising agents such as bleach, hydrogen peroxide and nitric acid or reducing agents and concentrated acids (e.g. concentrated sulphuric and hydrochloric acids).

Because violent chemical reactions can result Chlorinated flammable substances (like trichloroethylene) are best stored in ventilated cabinets separately from flammable (non-chlorinated) solvents. In addition they should not be stored with alkali metals such as lithium, potassium or sodium, since any mixing can result in an explosion.  They can be stored in sealed metal cabinets if ventilated storage is not available.

Acids and alkalis are both potentially corrosive substances. Although specialist so called “Acid/Alkali” cabinets are available this does not mean acids and alkalis should be stored together. They should be stored separately since any accidental mixing of particularly concentrated materials can generate large quantities of heat and fumes. They can be stored separately in a vented or metal cabinet so long as they are in a segregated containment tray to prevent any spillages.

Oxidising substances (e.g. peroxides and nitrates) should be stored in a COSHH metal cabinet well away from organic matter such as wood and paper. As a rule oxidising agents should never be stored in a wooden cabinet. Oxidising agents should also never be stored with flammable solvents or reducing agents since a fire or explosion can result, particularly if a spillage occurs, even without a naked flame or heat present.

The above is a quick overview on what can be a complicated subject but the main point to remember is the incorrect storage or mixing of hazardous chemicals can result in disastrous consequences so check the chemicals’ MSDS before deciding on your haz-chem storage solution.