Self-Closing vs Manual-Closing Safety Cabinet Doors
Safety cabinets are an essential component in the safe storage of flammable liquids and hazardous materials. The prevalent need for these cabinets has resulted in their utilization in countless work settings throughout the United States.
Organizations like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the International Fire Code (IFC) have introduced increasingly stringent requirements for the storage of flammable liquids and other hazardous materials to improve safety and mitigate damage in the event of a fire. Safety cabinets with self-closing doors play a vital role in working towards this goal.
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What is the Difference Between Self-Closing and Manual-Closing Safety Cabinet Doors?
The difference between self-closing and manual-closing safety cabinet doors refers to the mechanism by which the door closes. Manual-closing safety cabinet doors require that the user close the door by hand—or manually—after each use. In contrast, self-closing safety cabinet doors are spring-loaded to close and latch automatically (provided they are not being held open by the user or a fusible link).
What is the Benefit of a Safety Cabinet with Self-Closing Doors?
The primary benefit of self-closing doors on a safety cabinet is that this feature takes the human element out of the equation. People can be forgetful, distracted, or even negligent, and fail to properly close the doors on a cabinet fitted with manual-closing doors. A safety cabinet with manual-closing doors simply becomes a set of shelves if the doors are not properly closed. This creates the exact fire hazard the safety cabinet was purchased to prevent.
The purpose of a safety cabinet is to protect its contents from external forces such as a fire or mechanical damage resulting from manmade events or natural disasters—but the doors must be closed for this protection to be afforded. Self-closing safety cabinet doors are designed to close automatically and completely every time, effectively removing the human-error component; the risk of a fire spreading to the contents of your safety cabinet is virtually eliminated.
By utilizing self-closing doors, the safety cabinet cannot be left open unless the doors are purposely locked in the open position using a fusible link (described in more detail below). Even when locked open with a fusible link, they will still self-close in the event of a fire. Self-closing cabinet doors dramatically improve the safety of personnel in the vicinity when compared to manual-closing safety cabinet doors. Therefore, we always recommend self-closing (versus manual-closing) doors as a best safety practice.
The Importance of Fusible Links
The “fusible link” refers to a link that is used to hold the spring-loaded door on a safety cabinet in the open position. They are an essential component of self-closing doors and play a key role in maintaining the safety and usability of safety cabinets. In many workplaces, users want to keep the cabinet doors open while they are accessing the contents within. The fusible link allows this to happen without compromising safety in the event of a fire.
Similar to the fusible links found in fire sprinkler heads, safety cabinet door fusible links are designed to melt at 165° F (74° C). Therefore, in the instance of a fire, the link melts and your safety cabinet will shut and latch automatically, protecting the flammable liquids and hazardous materials within.
Do I Need a Safety Cabinet with Self-Closing Doors?
If you want to provide the highest degree of safety for your personnel and facility, the answer is most certainly “yes.” Despite not all authorities having jurisdiction requiring self-closing doors on safety cabinets, Justrite always recommends them as a best safety practice.
From a regulatory standpoint, the requirements for self-closing doors can be murky, and one may find unclear direction or even conflicting codes between state and local requirements. Further, the standards are always subject to change, potentially one day making your manual-closing door safety cabinet noncompliant. (As you will see below, many states already require self-closing doors.)
Selecting a safety cabinet with self-closing doors is the easiest and best choice. By doing so, you afford your employees the highest standard in safety and negate any confusion in standards’ interpretation and/or revisions that may require you to replace your manual-closing safety cabinet.
For those preferring to navigate the safety standards to determine the specific mode of door closure required, it is important to note that in certain states, flammable liquids cabinets are subject to different requirements than hazardous materials cabinets. Also, code requirements vary from state to state, and even certain local jurisdictions may require self-closing doors, even if the state does not. Again, standards are subject to change, and while your state might not require them now, it is possible—if not likely—that it will in the future. This is another reason why, when choosing a safety cabinet, we always recommend those with self-closing doors.
States That Require Self-Closing Safety Cabinet Doors
Both the IFC and the NFPA have codes requiring self-closing safety cabinet doors. If your state is listed below, self-closing doors are required on your safety cabinets. As mentioned above, it is important to note that even if your state is not listed below, your local jurisdiction could still require self-closing doors.
IFC 5704.3.2.1.3 provides: “Doors shall be well fitted, self-closing, and equipped with a three-point latch.” The states which adhere to this provision, requiring self-closing doors for flammable liquid safety cabinets, are listed below:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- District of Columbia
NFPA 1 (Uniform Fire Code) 18.104.22.168(d) provides: “Doors shall be well fitted, self-closing, and equipped with a self-latching device.” The states adhering to this provision are listed below, requiring self-closing doors for flammable liquid safety cabinets:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
There are some important things to remember when using this information:
- 1. These lists are for reference only and do not / should not preclude customers from confirming code requirements with all applicable authorities having jurisdiction.
- 2. Enforcement can favor the most conservative application (self-closing doors).
- 3. This chart is based on state codes; local codes may prevail.
- 4. This information on this page is subject to change at anytime without prior notice and is not guaranteed or warrantied.
Can Manual-Closing Safety Cabinets be Retrofitted with Self-Closing Doors?
Rather than completely replacing your safety cabinet with manual doors, it is possible that you could instead retrofit your current cabinet with self-closing doors. Certain manual-closing safety cabinets can be retrofitted with self-close kits. However (and this is important), this can violate the cabinet’s Factory Mutual (FM) approval, the product warranty, and potentially the safety capabilities of the product. Check with your local authority having jurisdiction to determine if this is a good option for you.
This guide is intended to serve only as a reference to the reader. It is not a substitute for comprehensive knowledge of the safety procedures and regulations surrounding your specific materials, safety cabinet, industry, and location. We assume no liability for the use or misuse of this information. For comprehensive and location-specific information, we strongly recommend that you contact your local fire marshal or authorities having jurisdiction.
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