Flammable Substances – Ten facts you might never have known

Did you know that a cloth or brush used to apply certain kinds of furniture preservative can catch fire of its own accord? Or that vapours from flammable liquids can flow like water? If not, you need Safety Storage Centre’s list of ten facts about flammable substances, and maybe a flammable storage cabinet too…

Modern workplaces and homes require the use of a broad spectrum of flammable substances, each of which presents similar, but slightly different hazards.

They’re all so familiar to us that there is a danger of being too relaxed around them, which is why the Safety Storage Centre has produced this list of ten facts you might not have been aware of when thinking about flammable substances.

1. Flammable liquids don’t burn. Burning happens when the conditions are right for the liquid to give off vapour into the atmosphere. It’s the vapour, mixed with the oxygen in the air, which burns, rather than the body of the liquid itself.

2. ‘Flammable’ doesn’t mean ‘combustible’. The words are not interchangeable, even though the distinction might be seen as a technicality. It’s about temperature, or more precisely, flashpoint. Flashpoint is the minimum temperature at which a liquid can form sufficient vapour to be ignited above its surface. As a general rule, liquids which have a flashpoint below 37.8oC (or 100oF) are said to be flammable; those that have a flashpoint above that temperature are combustible.

3. Vapours can flow like water. Some hazardous vapours are denser, and therefore heavier than air; others are lighter. The heavier ones can flow like water and pool in unventilated areas such as boat bilges, where they can lay undetected until an ignition source creates a spark leading to an explosion. In the event of a fire, it can spread along a vapour trail and cause a fire some distance away from the ignition source. When working around hazardous vapours, never ventilate an area with an electric fan; turning it on could provide the source of ignition. This is called flashback.

4. Flashpoints are like fingerprints. Every substance has a different one, and they can vary widely. Before working with any flammable or combustible substance, you need to know what its flashpoint is, and act accordingly.

5. The difference between ‘lean’ and ‘rich’. Most often used when talking about petrol engines, these terms refer to ‘flammable’ or ‘explosive’ limits. These are the concentrations above and below which vapours can’t be ignited. In the case of petrol, the lowest limit is 1.4%, (below which the engine won’t run well because the mixture is too lean). The upper limit is 7.6%, above which it is too rich. However, these figures are intended as guides. Always err on the side of caution.

6. A source of ignition isn’t always necessary. Substances have the capability to ‘go it alone’ in the explosion and fire stakes. That happens when they reach their auto-ignition temperature, at which point they will catch fire.

Flammable Substance

7. Static electricity on clothing can ignite a vapour. The tiniest spark can cause a fire, and that includes static electricity earthed from clothing. Wearing cotton reduces static build-up, and avoiding rubber-soled shoes, which are great insulators, will help static to disperse as it forms.

8. Oily rags can spontaneously combust. Alarmingly, when there’s been a spill clean up, the danger isn’t over until the cleaning cloths are safely disposed of, because they can catch fire of their own accord due to heat released as a result of a process known as oxidation. This is even true for some apparently harmless oil-based furniture treatments, where the application cloths or brushes need to be treated with the upmost respect, and disposed of or washed carefully.

9. Nylon will stick to the skin when it burns. That’s because it’s a man-made fibre, and will melt. Far better to wear natural fibres. Wool’s good, but remember the thought about static electricity in item 7.

10. Fire isn’t the only danger. Flammable substances can cause harm to health through exposure to the skin. They can be corrosive, and although their vapours are usually invisible, they can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, and irritation of the eyes or throat. And that’s just another reason to make sure that they’re stored and handled correctly.

Storage of flammables – how to do it safely

Here are a few basic rules about storage of flammables, and they’re covered mainly by the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR). The Health and Safety Executive goes into much more detail on its website.

The Regulations say that in terms of liquids, it’s best to keep the smallest-possible quantity in the workplace at any one time – enough for half a day, or a single shift. When not in use, containers need to be kept in a suitable cabinet or bin not only designed to resist fire, but also to contain spills – up to 110% of the largest vessel normally stored in it.

This is where flammable storage cabinets can be so important for the safe storage of these dangerous flammable substances. You must also think of placement of any flammable storage cabinet. Although they need to be close to the workplace for the sake of convenience, they need to be in places outside the work area, and where they won’t get in the way of an evacuation.

All kinds of sizes of flammable storage cabinet are available and we have a full range at the Safety Storage Centre. It may even be that more than one cabinet is required; regulations about the storage of flammables require that different classes of hazardous substance should not be mixed.

We understand that flammable substance storage can be tricky and we’d love to help. Visit our website and give us a call.

Picture: Fotoknips via Dreamstime.

Pesticides definition, pesticide storage and food security

This article explains how to stay on the right side of the law when it comes to pesticide storage. Food security in the 21st century seems to rely increasingly on chemical intervention and ingenuity – but we need protection from ourselves in controlling the way we intervene, which is why pesticide storage cabinets have such a vital role for farmers, gardening services, wildlife charities and the education sector.

Firstly, let us start with a definition of pesticides which we have attempted to make as concise as possible: “A chemical substance which is used to destroy insects that are harmful to cultivated plants.”

One prime example of how pesticides are relevant to our daily lives is their use in maintaining food security. Going back many years, the Irish Potato Famine in the mid-19th century was a period of mass starvation, caused by a disease-related potato crop failure. This terrible episode showed us that, left unchecked, nature can cause havoc with food security, an issue of increasing concern in the 21st century.

By way of illustration, there are about 10,000 species of plant-eating insects, between them responsible for the loss of up to 40% of food production. As this article’s picture illustrates, without pesticides the proportion of losses would soar, with devastating consequences for the human population. To control that bio-threat, often the only recourse is to use pesticides.

Pesticide Cabinets Image

However, incorrect use of pesticides can cause collateral damage in the environment; think of leaching into watercourses, and the consequences for fish populations and, indeed, their entire ecosystem. The consequences of this can be just as troubling as the threats to food security detailed above. Also, consider the impact on your finances from pesticide misuse since pesticides are not cheap. Letting them be washed away really is money down the drain.

This is where we feel that clear guidance on pesticide storage and proper use of pesticide cabinets can really be useful.

Pesticide storage for end users: The rules

Legislation covering the way end users must safely store pesticides can be found within a myriad of different rules and regulations. To summarise, you have the COSHH Regulations, as well as the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR), Paragraphs 94-96. You also have appendices A & B and Paragraph 104 in the DSEAR ACoP L136 together with the Factory Inspectorates Certificate of Approval No. 1 parts 3 and 4. All of that is a real mouthful, but we find that it is explained in more simple and helpful terms in The Health and Safety Executive’s guide for professional pesticide users.

A lot of that advice is geared to large-scale users, but those with smaller requirements are probably best served with bespoke ‘bought-in’ pesticide storage cabinets. The beauty of these pesticide cabinets is that they have been built with the relevant legislation in mind, and are therefore fully compliant in their off-the-shelf form. This completely does away with the worry of creating the large purpose-built store that farming on an industrial scale is likely to require.

In selecting the best cabinet for your needs, we’d point you to those HSE guidelines, but as an at-a-glance list of suggestions, we’d say:

• Pick a cabinet large enough to hold everything you need at periods of peak demand;
• Remember that used containers also need to be stored for correct disposal, as well as the full ones;
• Allow for material having remained in store, perhaps because of poor weather, when new deliveries might arrive;
• Get good locks, and make sure employees know how important it is to lock the cabinets when the contents aren’t in use;
• Make sure the cabinet is large enough for employees to get things in and out of without the risk of knocking over other stored items;
• Look for flexibility, like the ability to add extra shelves to make best use of the space;
• If your pesticides are in liquid form, then a liquid-tight sump is a must, and needs to be in proportion with the stored contents – it’s no good catching just half a spill; and
• Make sure the construction materials and methods are durable, and look for a manufacturer’s guarantee.

Pesticide Storage Cabinets: further details

As with all secure storage solutions, it’s best to cater for a ‘worst-case’ scenario. What if the cabinet is in a fire, for example? In that case, you will need to consider the cabinet’s fire resistance, in order to stop the contents igniting and making a bad situation worse. Being liquid tight helps keep spills in, but also helps to keep water out, which is a great asset if the sprinklers in your premises are activated, or the fire brigade has to turn out with its hoses. Check for the fire resistance; this premium range, for example, is designed to protect its contents for 30 minutes.

Notice too that all the pesticide cabinets that we offer are finished in red with hazard labelling. The red colour is not only an instinctive warning of potential danger, but if there is a fire, then fire fighters can easily identify the cabinet when bringing the fire under control.

It may be that it’s safer, in your environment, to have mobile pesticide storage. This reduces the risk of spills whilst moving chemicals between store and application area. These British-made cabinets are easy to move and are fitted with an integral liquid-tight sump. The four-caster arrangement does away with potentially-dangerous manual handling activities too.

Further guidance on pesticide storage compliance

This article is aimed at providing an easy to read overview of the rules and key considerations of pesticide storage. If you require further information or more detailed guidance on compliance please get in touch with us at the Safety Storage Centre.

Picture: Epitavi, via Dreamstime

Why protecting the environment needs us all to work together

On June 5th the United Nations will be promoting World Environment Day, this year to make us aware that we’re using the planet’s resources faster than is sustainable. Safety Storage Centre wants to do its bit by raising awareness of the need for safe storage of chemicals, so there’s no danger of them causing pollution in spills that damage our under-pressure resources.

The French know a thing or two about food, and they’ve just changed their rules to make it go further. From now on supermarkets in the country aren’t allowed to throw any away.

It happens in many food stores, not only in France, but around the developed world. Once stock gets close to being out of date off the shelves it goes, ready to be replaced with newer incarnations of the same thing. This clever new law will force supermarkets to become inventive with what method they choose for disposal. Some will no doubt be donated, some will go for animal food. All of it will have a beneficial use.

We’re all a bit guilty

World Environment DayHowever, there’s an underlying issue here, and it’s that we’ve brought this situation on ourselves. It starts because we tend to seek out the longest-dated item or the best-looking vegetables on the supermarket shelves, regardless of the fact that the less attractive ones are perfectly safe to eat. Some of it never even gets to the shelves; cauliflowers have lots of leaves that are hacked off before the heart is offered for sale; sprouts grow on stems that are topped with leaves, almost like a free cabbage.

The problem is that we just don’t want them. It gets worse because we then over-purchase, and throw food away at the end of the week, and that problem’s compounded because local authorities have to find some way of disposing of it all.

The environmental elephant in the room

But the real elephant in the room is that we can’t afford it – not in a monetary sense, though we could arguably make better use of our cash – but in an environmental sense. Put simply, we’re putting too much pressure on the resources the planet can deliver. We need to be more careful, or there will be nothing left for our grandchildren.

That’s the message coming from the United Nations for this year’s World Environment Day on June 5th. This year’s theme is about consuming with care. Says the UN World Environment Day web site:

“The well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. And yet, evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide.”

What chemical storage cabinets have to do with World Environment Day

All the more reason, then, to look after what we have.

Safety Storage Centre recognises the dangers to the planet of spilled chemicals, but also understands that they have a role to play in our lives. Careful storage is therefore required, and is covered by a number of regulations.

We’ve pulled the important ones together on our advice pages, which will help you do your bit for the planet by making sure all the hazardous materials you need are used correctly, and kept out of harms’ way in the correct chemical storage cabinets when they’re not needed.

Most chemicals and other hazardous materials are covered by the COSHH – Control of Substances Hazardous to Health – regulations, which we show on our advice pages. There are a number of COSHH cabinets in our product range, all designed to comply with the relevant legislation. Details of each of which can be found on the individual product pages.

A really helpful step-by-step guide to implementing the COSHH regulations is part of our advice pages here.

Picture: Gajus via Dreamstime

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.

Safety Cabinets and COSHH Compliance

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002, requires employers to ensure any chemicals and dangerous substances used on the premises are stored and handled in a way that minimises the risks posed by those substances both to the environment and to those in contact with the substances

This is a pretty broad brush requirement when non-compliance can result in punitive fines or even incarceration. So how do you go about complying with COSHH? The answer, as in virtually all health and safety legislation today is Risk Assessment. You need to analyse your business to assess any risks arising from the storage and handling of any dangerous substances. Any identified risks to the people working on the premises, visitors or any potential negative impact on the environment- should then be actioned to minimise the risks identified.

In practice start the process by identifying what constitutes a dangerous substance. Any hazardous chemical should be supplied with a safety data sheet and the container should be marked with a hazard warning label. Typically hazardous substances are classed as toxic, corrosive, acid, alkali, explosive or flammable. If you see any of these labels but don’t have a related product safety data sheet contact your supplier.

The data sheet should detail any incompatible substances that may compound the risks if they are mixed so as a golden rule it is better to store in different COSHH or safety cabinets manufactured for that specific group of hazardous substances, Acids with Acids, toxics with toxics, and so on. Flammables are a special category and come under the DSEAR regulations but the same principles apply.

Within the actual workplace only store the minimum quantity of dangerous substances possible- for example enough for a days work. Store any bulk quantities in a separate designated secure area away from the workforce.

Any staff handling dangerous substances should be properly trained in their use and properly equipped with appropriate personal protective equipment. Needless to say in the aftermath of an accident you may need to prove this so keep up to date training and safety records.

If a substance is clearly toxic or otherwise dangerous if released into the environment take adequate precautions to prevent leaks and spills, for example by storing in cabinets with spill trays or sumps. Despite this precaution the risk of a spill is still possible so have spill containment products available to contain and remove spills before they leak into watercourses and drains or seep into land.

Risk assessment is about being honest with yourself when assessing the potential risks your business generates. Cutting safety corners may save money in the short term but may ultimately cost lives as well as your livelihood and quite possibly your actual liberty.

Hazardous Substance Storage – Are you safe?

In facilities that deal with potentially hazardous materials on a regular basis, it is important that all elements of safety adhere to COSHH regulations (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health).

One such element of safety is the safe storage of dangerous substances. There are many cabinets currently available on the market that have been certified by COSHH.
COSHH cabinets such as hazardous storage bins, in many cases, will also adhere to DSEAR (the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations).
Available in many different sizes, hazardous storage bins and chests offer a practical and safe area specifically designed to house substances that are flammable, corrosive or toxic.

Whilst many, in a climate of economic downturn, might consider the expense of a hazardous storage bin or chest an investment they can’t justify, it is important to remember safe storage which adheres to COSHH and DSEAR is a legal obligation.
Keeping your workforce safe from the harmful effects of dangerous chemicals, however, should be reason enough to invest in safe storage.

Sudoku – safety cupboards

Here is a special version of the popular Sudoku brainteaser that uses letters instead of numbers. The rules are the same, each row, column and 3×3 square box must contain each of the letters in the keyword exactly once.

We have filled in some of the grid to give you a start.

As you might expect from the safety storage specialists your keyword is “CUPBOARDS“.

Come back next week for the solution and a new puzzle!

Hazardous Substance Storage

The storage of chemical substances – those that are potentially hazardous – is vitally important; however, whilst a flammable cabinet will provide a significant amount of protection against the effects of these dangerous substances, it is important to remember that some chemicals will need to be stored away separately.

For example, oxidising acids should never be stored with flammable solvents. Storing two incompatible substances in the same cabinet can result in disaster – causing the two to mix to form heat, harmful vapours, as well as explosions between the most volatile of chemicals.

When these chemicals are stored away it is also important to ensure that the container lids and caps are tightly secured – in order to prevent the substances from leaking out into the cabinet. Many will assume that because a storage cabinet is fireproof, it will also work as a corrosive cabinet – this, however, is simply not the case. Separate cabinets will have different attributes and it is therefore important to have the correct cabinet to contain the chemicals you intend to store in it.

See our Advice Pages for more help on the Chemical Compatibility.