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.

Choosing the right Hazardous Storage Cabinet

Selecting the most suitable storage cabinet for hazardous substances can be confusing given the wealth of regulations that businesses are obliged to comply with.

To comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations referred to as COSHH, any substance that presents an environmental or health hazard if inhaled, ingested or through skin contact should be segregated from the active work area in a secure lockable cabinet that complies with the COSHH guidelines.

Generally this means a steel cabinet with spill trays for shelves and lockable doors.

The purpose of the COSHH cabinet is threefold

  1. To prevent accidental contact with the substances
  2. To contain leaking containers or spills from reaching the work area
  3. To prevent spills from causing any environmental damage.

The cabinet should be clearly marked with an HSE compliant Hazard Warning label.

Storing flammable substances is a different matter

Even though you could argue they are hazardous to health and the environment as defined by COSHH their storage is covered by more specific fire safety regulations, primarily DSEAR the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations. There are other legal instruments and requirements for specific activities such as fuel depots.

Flammable substances should be stored separately in a purpose made fire resistant cabinet. Typically paints, solvents and fuels. As with COSHH the cabinet should be equipped with spill trays with a liquid retaining volume of at least twice the volume of the largest storage container in the cabinet.

Flammable storage cabinets are designed with double rebated flush doors and fully welded seams to prevent flames entering the cabinet. The purpose of Flammable Storage Cabinets is to segregate the contents from accidental contact with heat or flame, to provide secure storage, to contain environmentally damaging spills and leaks and to clearly identify their location in a fire emergency.

In the event of a fire the fire resistance of the cabinet is intended to prevent the flammable contents from adding to the fire although the resistance time is no more than 30 minutes depending on the fire intensity and proximity. The cabinets are not insulated and in a fire event with not prevent the internal temperature from rising for more than a few minutes. It is therefore important to use original containers and ensure caps are securely in place.

You should also be aware that there is a distinction between Flammable Liquids and Highly Flammable Liquids or HFL’s. HFL’s have a flash point, at which the liquid or its vapours can auto-ignite, at or below  ambient or room temperature of 32 degrees centigrade. Common laboratory HFL’s are acetone, ethanol and toluene.

More on the safe storage of HFL’s and the storage of chemicals and toxics in my next blog.

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.

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  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.

 

 

Storage of Flammable Liquids

When dealing with liquids of a flammable nature, it is crucial to ensure that they are stored away correctly.

Not ensuring that flammable liquids are protected could result in a small controllable fire very quickly becoming a raging blaze.

By ensuring you have a flammable cabinet that adheres to COSHH regulations (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health), you can minimize the potential risk caused by fire.

There are a number of different types of cabinets suitable for storing flammable liquids, such as paint, away in.

Here are just a few:

Flammable Liquid Storage:
The most obvious choice. Specifically made to house flammable liquids, flammable liquid storage solutions are available in a number of varying sizes – meaning you can a cabinet that is an exact fit.

Paint and Ink Safety Cabinets:
These storage containers are specially made to keep paints and inks protected. Some will have doors that have to be manually closed, whilst others benefit from having a self-closing door system.

Drum Safety Cabinets:
Drum safety cabinets are much larger than the previously mentioned cabinets. Big enough to store drums filled with potentially dangerous chemicals, these cabinets are usually double-walled and manufactured from a much thicker gauge steel. A gap of one and a half inches of air space between the walls and the inclusion a fire baffle and cap ensures that no half-measures are taken as far as safety is concerned.

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.

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.

Adoption of new Hazard Substance labels

As a follow on from my earlier comments regarding the correct use of COSHH rated hazardous substance cabinets I should have added that if using a general purpose COSHH cabinet the need for correct labelling to identify the actual class of materials stored still applies. Use of the old black “Cross” designating “Harmful” is being phased out in favour of more specific pictograms so that the hazard posed by the contents is clear and unambiguous. The Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is a UN inspired scheme intended to establish a standardized global system to harmonise all the various national and regional hazard communication systems around the world that apply to the control and supply of hazardous chemicals. The GHS when fully rolled out will act in much the same way that the ‘Orange Book’ provides a global framework for the transport of dangerous goods.

This makes absolute sense given our modern global marketplace and Europe is one of the first to adopt the GHS via the CLP (Classification, Labeling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures). This Regulation is entitled “Regulation (EC)No 1272/2008” and supercedes Directives 67/548/EEC and 1999/45/EC.

There is a generous transition period so the old hazard labels on your existing cabinets and existing warehouse stock are acceptable. The plan is to achieve a full transition by 2015. If you are using General purpose COSHH Storage cabinets although the “Cross” label denoting “Hazard” may already be attached but you may be best advised to source the appropriate CLP hazard label specific to the contents for example Flammable, Toxic, Corrosive, Explosive, Environmental Hazard etc to satisfy the Health and Safety and Fire Safety legislation.

Although the CLP legislation is quite detailed and complex for product Safety Data Sheets and labeling of the chemical container or its outer packaging that may involve displaying several pictograms this is not necessary on a hazardous storage cabinet where only the general hazardous class is required.

A summary of the new label pictograms is given below. Note that there is a different set of CLP harmonized labels required for use in the transportation of Hazardous goods. For the full text of Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 go to

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2008:353:0001:1355:en:PDF

Physical Hazards


Health Hazards

Environmental Hazards

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.