The Purpose of Safety Cabinet Ventilation
Countless industries utilize flammable liquid safety cabinets. Gasoline, diesel, and kerosene are the fuels of the modern world. Whether you are a manufacturer, university, shipping company, or construction company, these flammable liquids play an essential role in the operation of your business. When it comes to flammable liquids, proper safety protocol is not just necessary when using them; it is necessary when storing them too. This is why safety cabinets are so important. Safety cabinets are used to secure, identify, organize and separate dangerous liquids. When used properly, they not only make your workplace compliant with regulations but also protect the members of your team and provide a healthier work environment.
Safety cabinets are designed to provide a controlled environment for flammable liquids in order to mitigate the risk to personnel operating within their proximity. They have self-closing doors, flame arresters, secure latching systems, and are designed with double steel walls to provide insulating air in the event of a fire. These features are designed to completely secure the cabinet and mitigate the risk of fire reaching its contents. During daily work or due to lack of maintenance, small spills and drips can lead to the buildup of noxious fumes and ignitable vapors within the cabinet, which then present themselves when the cabinet doors are opened.
Ventilation is not required by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) as a fire protection measure. In fact, an improperly ventilated cabinet can increase the risk of susceptibility to fire. That being said, ventilation is a safety measure that can be utilized to prevent the buildup of fumes and improve the workspace’s quality.
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Should my Flammable Safety Cabinet be Vented?
When determining whether or not you should ventilate your safety cabinet, there are two primary reasons that the answer would be yes. First is that you are required by local legislation. Second is it will improve the work environment for employees in the workplace. In either case, your cabinet should be adequately ventilated.
Authorities Having Jurisdiction Requires that you Ventilate your Flammable Liquids Cabinet
If state or local regulations require that your safety cabinet be vented, then you should do so. While the NFPA does not require safety cabinets to be vented, you might still find that either your state, county, city or even your building’s owner does. Contact your local fire marshal to determine if it is required by state or local regulations to ensure compliance in your facility.
Safety Cabinet Ventilation Will Improve the Health and Safety of the Space
If installing ventilation would improve the health and safety of the workspace, then it should be done. Cabinet ventilation can eliminate exposure to odors, toxins, and ignitable gas when opening your cabinet doors. Suppose the room itself is not well ventilated and the contents of your safety cabinet negatively impact the work environment. In that case, it should be ventilated safely and properly out of the facility, resulting in safer and happier staff.
What to do with Safety Cabinet Vent Openings If They Won't Be Used
If you will not be ventilating your safety cabinet, it is important to remember that it is required by law to keep the vent openings sealed with the bung caps provided to ensure a secure cabinet. This helps your safety cabinet remain as fire-resistant as possible.
Tips for Ventilating your Safety Cabinet
Ensuring that your ventilation system is both effective and safe is of the utmost importance. The ventilation system for your safety cabinet should be designed and implemented by a professional engineer that is familiar with storing hazardous and flammable liquids and local building codes. Here are some tips to help you achieve the best safety cabinet possible.
- Safety cabinet ventilation requires more than simply removing the bungs from the sides of the cabinet. Safety cabinet ventilation systems should be drawing air directly from the outdoors through the topmost opening. Since ignitable vapors are typically heavier than air, they can then be carried out the cabinet’s bottom-most vent opening, which is connected securely to an existing exhaust system within the facility or vented directly outdoors with a blower in place to force air through the vents. This system ensures that you are not creating a vacuum within your cabinet and are not drawing air from inside the facility in the event of a fire.
- The piping used should be rigid metal piping with threading to match that of the cabinet being vented. Avoid PVC or plastic piping as these cannot withstand the temperatures found in a fire. The total distance of pipe venting should not exceed 25 feet.
- Blowers utilized in the ventilation system should be specified as capable of handling the vapors and materials within your safety cabinet. Additionally, the blower should automatically shut down in the event of a fire to avoid drawing hot air into the cabinet.
- If you will be ventilating your safety cabinet, Justrite recommends using the patented Safe-T-Vent™ Thermally-Actuated Safety Cabinet Vent Damper. It is FM-approved for use with Justrite safety cabinets and is the best way to ventilate your cabinet without compromising your safety cabinet’s performance in the event of a fire. It features a fusible link that melts at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, releasing a spring-loaded valve and sealing off the cabinet in the event of a fire.
If you are designing a safety cabinet ventilation system, please reference these codes and standards for proper ventilation design:
- NFPA 91 Standard for Exhaust Systems for Air Conveying of Vapors, Gases, Mists, and Particulate Solids
- NFPA 70 National Electrical Code (see chapter 5 Special Occupancies)
- NFPA 45 Chapter 7 Laboratory Ventilating Systems and Hood Requirements
- ANSI/AIHA Z9.5 – 2012 Laboratory Ventilation
This safety cabinet ventilation 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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