Storing Hazardous Chemicals Safely

Safety cabinets come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, and in addition to choosing a cabinet that meets NFPA and OSHA requirements, and carries an FM approval, other factors need to be considered.

It is important to identify and inventory all chemicals to be stored in an area. For instance, the housekeeping area may have cleaners and aerosols. In the maintenance area, you may find paints, spray paints, thinners, cleaners, gasoline, WD-40, or fertilizers. The pool area will have pool chemicals. The kitchen, banquet, and dining areas may store Sterno, propane torches, and cleaning chemicals.

A review of the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for a chemical will determine its characteristics and recommended storage practices. To avoid generating toxic explosions and to prevent fires, it is critical to segregate incompatible chemicals.

One factor in choosing a cabinet is how the chemical relates to the cabinet construction material. Non-flammable acids and corrosive liquids should be stored in polyethylene or wood laminate. Less aggressive corrosive liquids that exhibit flammable characteristics need a chemically-resistant steel cabinet with polyethylene-lined shelves.

Industry has customarily observed certain cabinet colors for defined fluids:

  • Yellow: Flammable liquids
  • Red: Paints, inks, and other combustible liquids
  • Blue: Corrosives
  • Green: Pesticides and insecticides
  • White or Gray: Waste materials or outdoor lockers

Safety cabinets come in single or two-door closure styles: manual or self-closing. Manual-close doors open a full 180 degrees and require the user to physically shut the doors. Self-close, self-indexing doors have a mechanism that automatically shuts doors upon release. Fusible links hold the doors open during use, but if inadvertently left open, the links will melt in the event of a fire to automatically close the doors.

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