Having knowledge on common workplace safety issues should always be given top priority. Accidents, fires, or other emergencies in laboratories and various workrooms can be prevented by being aware on how to reduce the risks of these. When it comes to facilities storing and handling flammables and hazardous materials, nothing works best other than getting safe, sturdy, and secure storage containers like safety cabinets.
Safety cabinets are specially designed to store cans and containers of flammable and combustible liquids, other hazardous materials, corrosives, and even pesticides. These cabinets are also key to emergency preparedness, protecting stored materials in times of fire, flood, explosion, earthquake, snowstorm, or any other disasters.
Choosing a reliable safety cabinet from a plethora of options available in the market might be overwhelming and confusing, but do not fret because we have prepared this simple guide on how to select the most appropriate safety cabinet for your facility. Consider the following factors below to make smart purchasing decisions today!
Check compliance of safety cabinet to regulatory codes.
Inspect the safety cabinet you are getting and confirm if this is approved by third party national testing laboratories. Agencies such as FM Global and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) conduct quality assurance programs to test performance of these cabinets and see if these comply to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. Don’t forget to ask if the safety cabinet you intend to buy adheres to federal, state, and local codes. You can contact your local fire marshal for guidance on this.
Be aware on approved design, construction, and capacity of safety cabinets.
SIf the following are not met by the flammable liquids safety cabinet you are eyeing on, you should look for another model or brand instead:
- 60 gallons for Class I or Class II liquids
- 120 gallons for Class III liquids
Fire Resistance when subjected to a 10-minute fire test
- ○ Internal temperature > 325 °F (162°C)
- Door must remain completely closed
- All joints and seams must stay tight
- Flammable liquids safety cabinets must be clearly labeled as “FLAMMABLE - KEEP FIRE AWAY”
- Bottom, top, door, and sides of cabinet - at least No.18 gage sheet iron and double walled with 1 1/2 -inch air space
- Joints - riveted/welded/made tight
- Door - with a three-point lock
- Door sill - raised at least 2 inches above the bottom of the cabinet
Take into account size and type of containers and fluids to be stored.
Before acquiring a safety cabinet, review the size and type of the containers you will be storing inside it first. Will you be stocking safety cans, dispenser cans, aerosols, bottles, or drums? How many of these will you be keeping? Do you need specialty cabinets or larger ones for expanded quantity storage? To find the right unit for your application, always check your capacity requirements and ensure the cabinet you are getting meets these.
Properly identify, organize, and segregate the chemicals you are storing through color-coded and correctly-labeled containers and safety cabinets. Having color coded safety cabinets also assist fire department personnels in identifying hazards in cases of fire.
There are no specific colors mandated for safety cabinets yet but you can rely on this list for what the industry customarily observe:
- Red - for combustible liquids, paints, inks
- Yellow - for flammable liquids
- Green - for pesticides and insecticides
- Blue - for corrosive liquids
- Silver or Light Neutral - to complement lab settings
- White or Gray - for waste materials or outdoor lockers
If you will be storing emergency supplies like first aid kits, headlights, light sticks, and spill kits for use in times of disasters, you can search for safety cabinets that can easily be located in the dark in case of power outages. GenLab carries emergency preparedness cabinets featuring glow-in-the-dark identification labels for fast location during emergencies. These units are also colored in high-visibility orange to differentiate them from other storage cabinets and come with a built-in power port for convenient charging of other emergency items such radios and flashlights.
Make a well-informed choice on door styles.
Selecting the proper door style for your cabinet is important. It is typically chosen by preference unless the state or the locale you are under follow the NFPA 1 Uniform Fire Code or the International Fire Code, requiring use of self-closing cabinets. Be sure to check what fire code your state adopts.
Below are three types of door styles with their brief descriptions:
It is recommended to go for safety cabinets with self-closing and self-latching doors as these provide extra protection, not needing to remind users to close the doors.
- Manual Closing Doors - doors open a full 180° and do not automatically close/self-latch unless manually pushed closed.
- Bi-Fold Closing Doors - feature a single bi-fold sliding door, can self-latch and self-close, has a fusible link to hold door open when in use and to melt when temperature is at 165oF (74oC), automatically closing under instances of fire
- Self-Closing Doors - can self-index, self-latch, and self-close, can be open flush with the front cabinet through usage of fusible link equipment that also melt when temperature is at 165oF (74oC) automatically keeping door shut
Go for convenient and fire-resistant safety cabinets.
Look for easy-to-use safety cabinets with a welded construction. Units featuring self-latching doors on a continuous piano hinge, spill-catcher shelves which adjust based on storage needs, and a built-in self-close mechanism not only make way for easy storage and unobstructed access to top shelf space but also provide improved usability.
Self-latching systems offer high-value as these do not require users to manually rotate handles for proper door closure. A safety cabinet with doors securely latched avoid instances of flammable contents being exposed to a potential fire. Check if the unit you are getting comes with a stainless steel bullet latching system as this presents increased heat resistance and optimal longevity.
To ensure maximum protection under fire conditions, inspect the safety cabinet, look for OSHA/NFPA logos or ask if these were built to meet OSHA/NFPA standards.
Ensuring workplace and people safety not just stops in getting your ideal safety cabinet. Proper maintenance of these should follow suit. Always remember to clean up spills right away, keep chemicals in closed containers, and position the cabinet indoors, in a room with good ventilation and low humidity.