Preventing thefts through secure storage

Thanks to the time and effort expended by a large number of public spirited residents we have a very active Neighbourhood Watch scheme operating in my area. Trouble is that it appears to do little to deter both the opportunistic and more organised thieves who of late have become more brazen often operating in broad daylight under the noses of residents. With no town gas supply, not surprisingly the most frequent thefts involve stealing home heating oil, but recently there has been a notable rise in thefts of grass mowers and power tools from outbuildings. The thieves probably calculate a ready market exists for their ill-gotten gains as spring approaches.
Insurance will ease the pain but standard policy excesses and loss of no claims bonuses can still leave you hundreds of pounds out of pocket. So what can you do?


Obviously don’t leave out buildings and sheds unlocked or leave windows open. The objective is to put as many security barriers in place as possible to foil the sneak thief and deter the more determined and better equipped criminal. Fit quality locks or padlocks and if possible steel lock covers to prevent access with bolt cutters. You can also buy anti-jemmy door hinges for a few pounds. If you have very expensive equipment like generators and ride on mowers consider extending your home security alarm. These days modern technology means this can be done wirelessly.
If despite your best efforts thieves do gain entry all is not lost (literally). My own mower is chained to the wall using two 15mm eyebolts. As for power tools and other expensive equipment the answer is to lock these away in a secure steel cabinet or tool vault. Depending on the size the Probe Industrial cabinet range provides security for lower value items. For added security you can utilise the heavy duty Oxbox or Tuffbank van boxes made from heavy gauge steel plate that have bolt down features and anti-jemmy lids.
Spending a couple of hundred pounds to safeguard against theft is worthwhile when balanced against the cost and hassle of replacement. The police also advise that thieves will return time and again to properties they consider easy prey so now is the time to be proactive so you don’t become a victim.

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.