Choosing a Safety Cabinet

Choosing a Safety Cabinet

Safety cabinets provide a convenient and secure means of storage for flammables, corrosives, acids, paints, and ink.

To properly assess your storage needs, you must determine the quantity and class of the chemicals you need to house, and ascertain whether they have any special storage requirements. Refer to the Material Safety Data Sheet or container label for the specific requirements of each chemical. Additional guidlines on storing hazardous materials are available from your local fire marshall or OSHA office. These regulations will help determine the size and type of storage cabinet you require.

NFPA 30 Section 4-3.1, for example, limits the number of storage cabinets containing flammable or combustible liquids in any given fire area to three. Moreover, each cabinet can contain no more than 60 gallons of Class I Flammable Liquids, 60 gallons of Class II Combustible Liquids, or 120 gallons of Class III Combustible Liquids. Other typical storage considerations may include temperature, ignition control, ventilation, and segregation.

Proper segregation of stored chemicals is necessary to prevent incompatible materials from inadvertently coming into contact, in which case fire, explosion, violent reactions, or toxic gases could result. A physical barrier and/or distance, as provided by safety cabinets, is effective for proper segregation.

You must also consider the compatibility of the chemical with the cabinet. For example, strong acids and caustics will corrode untreated, metal cabinets. It is best to store these chemicals in non-metallic wood or HDPE cabinets, or in epoxy-coated cabinets designed to prevent rapid deterioration caused by corrosive fluids or vapors.

Safety cabinets must meet a variety of OSHA and NFPA requirements, dependent upon the purpose of the cabinet. For example, some states, including California, require all flammable storage cabinets to have self-closing doors to protect chemicals from external fires or to isolate a fire inside the cabinet. Such cabinets should be double-walled, and have dual vents and grounding connectors. Fusible links, which hold doors open and automatically release them in the event of fire, may also be required.