Did you know that flammable and combustible materials are one of the most common causes of fire in the workplace? That’s right, these liquids are right up there with faulty electrics, arson, and general negligence as the leading causes of industrial fires. If flammable liquids are not stored properly they become a major fire hazard. That’s why every organisation handling these type of materials needs fire safety cabinets. With a fire safety cabinet, flammable liquids are contained, minimising exposure to ignition sources and limiting access. These cabinets also protect the contents inside in case of a fire, ensure they don’t turn a dropped cigarette into an explosion.
Because they are locked, the cabinets ensure that only people authorized to use the stored liquids can access them. As an organization, you need a fire safety cabinet that suits your needs. Storage facilities are available in different sizes and configurations, helping you handle all types of flammable liquid storage needs. Approved safety cabinets can stand a 10-minute fire test whereby temperatures remain below 162oC despite the heat. To understand more on fires and safety when dealing with flammable products, check out the following facts.
Life or Death
Fire safety is a matter of life and death. Having a fire safety cabinet could save lives in the case of a workplace fire and can prevent accidents that could ruin livelihoods. Poor storage or handling of flammable liquids remains a major cause of industrial fires. So, to ensure the safety of your staff and your property, fire-risk storage is a must.
Fire safety cabinets can protect from more than just fire. Many flammable chemicals may have other associated health hazards such as inhalation danger, harmful skin contact, special disposal methods, etc. Flammable liquids include diesel, kerosene, fuel oil, nail polish remover, paint stripper, spray paints, charcoal starter fuel, acids, lab alcohols, ammonia, and anything kept in high concentrations. In the case of a leak or improper storage of these substances, a fire cabinet can protect your work area from noxious fumes or damages to surfaces caused by these chemicals. Apart from saving lives, a safety cabinet can protect your property and inventory. With fire cabinets, you can restrict access to dangerous substances. You can even choose to store expensive materials in the fire cabinet, where code and safety allow, keeping them slightly safer from time and limiting the number of people with access.
Color Coded for Safety
To reduce risks, best practice dictates that you store hazardous material according to color. When you do this you simply need to look at the color of a fire cabinet to know what sort of danger is posed by the materials inside. Color and labels when storing flammable liquids help you stay organized and increase ease of identification and segregation of liquids. Having color coded fire safety cabinets is highly recommended. In the event of fire, appropriate colors make it easy for the fire department or personnel responding to the situation to know what liquids they are dealing with.
Four main colors identify materials stored in cabinets. These are the standard colours: Yellow for generally flammable liquids, paints and inks; Blue/Purple for corrosive liquids; Green for pesticides and insecticides; White for toxic substances.
For all cabinets, everything stored inside should be closed, and spills should be cleaned immediately. The cabinet should also be well ventilated and in an area with minimum humidity. Color codes also ensure you don’t store incompatible materials in the same cabinet, since doing so could increase the risk of unwanted reactions. As a rule, use approved containers as a first precautionary measure, then follow up with putting them in a fire cabinet.
The fire cabinet door style usually comes down to individual preference. Doors can be single, double, manual, self-closing, or sliding. However, locales adhering to the International Fire Code (IFC) insist on the use of the self-closing cabinets. These self-closing and self-latching doors give extra safety. The IFC code states “Doors shall be fitted self-closing and equipped with a three-part latch.” A fire safety cabinet with a self-closing door is the best type for fire safety, as it protects against human error. Doors can be left open for many reasons, all of which are a problem when a fire erupts around your cabinet. No matter the quality of a safety cabinet, the safety benefits cease to exist when the cabinet is left open. Self-closing doors shut once the door is released, ensuring that the doors are always closed if not in use. In the unlikely event the door doesn’t shut properly, it will shut automatically under fire conditions when temperatures reach 73oC. You should know that storing flammable liquids in a cabinet that doesn’t self-close will make you financially liable for non-compliance in IFC compliant zones.
Our fire cabinets have other safety features that activate in the event of a fire. At high temperatures, elements of the cabinet will melt, and seal the cabinet. This protection is designed to give people time to evacuate the building and give firefighters more time to extinguish the fire before it overcomes the heat tolerance of the storage cabinet.
Because flammable materials can cause lots of harm to people, property, and the environment, proper use and storage is necessary. You must ensure you comply with industry regulations when getting your fire safety cabinet. Find out which federal regulations apply, what the industry standards are, if the cabinet is tested for performance and so on. The key takeaway is that if you are storing flammable materials, you must ensure you meet all regulations, whether federal, state, or local. Your storage facility must also be of a standard that is acceptable and used by others in your industry. Failing to meet regulation may incur hefty fines and may result in hefty penalties after a fire has occurred.
Local or state regulations are likely based on the National Fire Protection Association Code (NFPA 30), Uniform Fire Code (UFC) 79 or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. These codes cover areas like design, capacity, and construction of storage cabinets. They also tell you how you should alert people that flammable goods are in a cabinet. The UFC states cabinets must be marked “Flammable-Keep fire away.” Some standards may require additional signage. Ensure you read the guidelines applicable to your business and your local to know what is required. If you don’t know what the regulations are, contact your local fire marshal or code officer and they will take you through the regulations. A lot of information is also available online, so you have a variety of ways to get information that will ensure your fire safety cabinet complies with all federal and state regulations.
Best Practices for Fire Safety Cabinet Use
- It should not hold more than 120 gallons of flammable or combustible liquid.
- All fire cabinets should be labeled “Flammable- Keep Fire Away”
- Acids, caustics or other hazardous items should not be stored in the same cabinet as flammables. Only flammable and combustible liquids should be in the cabinet; a second cabinet is required for other hazardous substances.
- Doors should be regularly checked to ensure they are closed particularly when not in use. Self-closing doors must be latched at all times.
- Not more than three cabinets may be located in one fire area. There may be some exception to this rule that only applies to large industrial companies.
- Containers used for storage of the flammable materials must be in the cabinet when not in use to ensure fire safety.
- Ensure proper segregation of the different flammables according to colors to reduce the potential for incidents.
Rather Safe Than Sorry
There is nothing as bad as regret. Knowing that you could have avoided a disaster had you done the right thing can eat at your conscious. To avoid fires that could lead to injuries or loss of lives of your staff or a major disaster at your factory, ensure fire safety measures are in place at all times when dealing with flammable liquids. And it’s not hard to be safe. As a first step ask yourself or the safety manager these questions:
- What is the quantity of flammable items that I need to store? Do I have any caustic or toxic substances that need a storage cabinet?
- How many fire cabinets will I need to store these materials? To answer this, you may have to consult your local fire marshal as there might be restrictions as to how much of anything you may have in one area.
- Where will I put the fire safety cabinet? Cabinets can be placed on counter tops or mounted, or large floor-to-ceiling cabinets can be purchased. The room in which the fire cabinet will be places should be well-ventilated and have low humidity.
Once you answer these questions you will be well on your way to storing your flammable liquids safely and ensuring the safety of your business and staff. Remember, better safe than sorry!