Proper Chemical Storage in Flammable Safety Cabinets

Best Practices and Tips from Safety Experts

Can’t get enough expert advice from Justrite? Check out our previous article on tips and best practices for using flammable safety cabinets.

In August 2018, teachers and staff at a middle school in Norfolk, MA, were preparing for the start of the school year as the annual fire inspection took place. In a science classroom, the town building and fire department officials noticed a strange chemical odor coming from a chemical storage cabinet. The garlicy smell was due to a reaction that had occurred in a container of chemicals.

Erring on the side of caution, they immediately evacuated the building and sealed off the room. They sent a photo to the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services’ (DFS) Hazardous Materials Response Team, who confirmed they made the right call to evacuate. Inhalation of calcium carbide is very dangerous. Additionally, if contacted with water, it creates acetylene gas, which is commonly used in welding because of its high flammability.

While waiting for hazmat to arrive, fire officials called the chemical’s manufacturer to learn how to handle it after a reaction. Following the cleanup, the DFS Code Compliance Unit made sure other chemicals were located and properly stored. The middle school was also required to update all policies and procedures for chemical storage and inventory.

When working with chemicals, proper storage capability is vital for creating and maintaining an ecosystem of safety. Read on for some additional best practices and tips to keep top of mind when using flammable safety cabinets.

1. Don’t Add Fuel to the Fire – Keep Unnecessary Flammable Materials Put Away

When storing chemical containers in a flammable safety cabinet, it might seem more organized to keep them in their original cardboard packaging. But, this approach creates unintended safety risks. A spark near the safety cabinet may ignite the cardboard. When the cardboard burns, it creates heat. This may cause any vapors in the air to ignite or explode.

Also, avoid storing items on top of, or near, the cabinet. This includes used oily rags, waste paper, or other flammable materials.

2. Organize Chemicals Inside a Flammable Safety Cabinet

Justrite’s flammable cabinets have shelves designed to carry the weight of chemical containers and for easy access by users. Our patented SpillSlope® shelves sit on a slight slope. Spills are directed to the back of the cabinet to the leakproof sump in the bottom.

Justrite provides SDS document storage boxes that install directly on cabinet doors or side walls.

For maximum organization of your space, Justrite supplies optional all-steel shelf dividers. Simply slide them into position on the shelves to segregate chemicals within a cabinet.

Helpful Tip: In the incident at the middle school, the fire department called the chemical’s manufacturer for advice on handling it after a reaction. But, that information should be included in the chemical’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

All chemical come with Safety Data Sheets (SDS), as specified by OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard. These provide vital information about the chemical, including hazards classes, first-aid measures, fire-fighting measures, handling and storage guidance, and more. Justrite supplies optional document storage boxes to keep SDS’s easily accessible for all chemicals. Install these durable and convenient boxes directly onto cabinet doors or side walls. They also protect contents from dirt and moisture.

3. Understand Safety Cabinet Ventilation

Justrite safety experts agree with NFPA 30, which advises against venting safety cabinets unless otherwise required. Justrite flammable safety cabinets come with 2-inch NPT vent bungs installed but sealed off as a standard practice.

Ventilation removes flammable vapors from a safety cabinet, reducing the chance of ignition. Removing flammable vapors from a safety cabinet and releasing them somewhere else only moves the hazard from one place to another. If the new location is close to ignition sources, that may cause an even greater risk.

In cases where venting is necessary, always consult engineering about how to design and install it. Find out more about safety cabinet venting here.

4. Modifications Create More Risks

Flammable safety cabinets form a fire-resistant barrier between the outside and inside of the cabinet. Justrite safety cabinets have an air gap between the interior and exterior wall. This provides heat resistance and keeps the internal temperature below 325 F (162 C) for at least 10-minutes under fire conditions, as defined by NFPA 251.

Modifications like drilling a hole into the flammable safety cabinet wall may pose a major fire risk. This compromises its heat resistance and reduces ignition time of its contents. Thus, employees may not have enough time to evacuate the area before the chemicals ignite or explode. Modifications void third party or independent certifications.

Regulations also specify warning labels and clear visibility of flammable safety cabinet. Modifications that obstruct labels or make the cabinet difficult to identify are not compliant and could lead to fines.

Contact Justrite for Expert Guidance Storing Flammable Chemicals

At Justrite, we understand safety is more than the equipment used, it’s a process and a state of mind. And when lives are at stake, the real cost of an unsafe workplace is beyond measure. That’s why we design, develop and deliver the highest quality flammable liquid storage and handling products on the planet. Find out more about flammable safety cabinets here or contact us for more expert advice.