The Ultimate Guide to Safety Storage Containers

March 16, 2022 | Buyers' Guide

Flammables, combustible liquids, and hazardous chemicals in laboratories, work facilities, and business sites must be handled with extreme caution. Even with exhaustive safety programs created to ensure safe storage and use of these, there is still an evident number of accidents and fires recorded all throughout the year. Ignorance and complacency on how to properly handle, stock, and transport hazardous materials may not just result to loss of capital, with facilities burned down, but may also lead to victims experiencing physical and emotional trauma as well as loss of lives in some cases. Having awareness and basic knowledge on common safety issues related to flammables can save you from these troubles.

Special handling of hazardous materials involves usage of special safety storage containers. With a range of safety storage containers to choose from, finding the right type for your application may be quite overwhelming and intimidating. Don’t worry as GenLab has prepared this guide to assist you in finding the most fit unit for what your facilities require, lowering risks of accidents and fires, protecting people, and securing a safer workplace.

What are the different safety storage containers available in the market?

  • Type I Safety Cans - are Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliant and are FM approved
    • Type I Steel Safety Cans - usually have one opening for filling and pouring combustible liquids
    • Type I Polyethylene Safety Cans - withstand tough acids, corrosives, and heat
  • Type II Safety Cans - are FM approved
    • Type II Steel Safety Cans - are also OSHA compliant and feature two openings, one for filling and the another one with a flexible metal hose for precise pouring
    • Type II Transport and Dispensing Safety Cans - are also United Nations approved and can accommodate roll bars to protect materials during over-the-road conditions
  • Bench Cans - present a safe and easy way of washing small equipment parts or mixing hazardous liquids
  • Dispensing Safety Cans - either made from steel or polyethylene with attached faucets for trouble free dispensing into flasks, beakers, and other small containers
    • Type I Safety Cans - are chemical resistant and ensure leak protection
    • Biohazard Waste Cans - for use in segregating infectious waste, can store contaminated laundry and other regulated waste, not for storage of sharps ○ Oily Waste Cans - for use on solvent (thinners, linseed oil, combustible adhesives) soaked cloths and wiping rags
    • Solid Waste Containers - offer a convenient way of doing away with solid wastes
    • Drain Cans - for easy collection of used solvents from parts washing equipment
  • Safety Drums - are used for bulk storage of flammable liquids or various waste types. These feature specialized drum covers and cover heads that prevent vapor release and the chance for oxygen to enter the container and start a fire.

What is the maximum allowable size of safety storage containers and portable tanks?

Safety storage containers and portable tanks can be used for storing and handling flammable liquids if these are OSHA approved and if these follow the maximum allowable size as shown in the table below:

Container Type Category 1 Category 2 Category 3 Category 4
Glass or approved plastic 1 pt 1 qt 1 gal 1 gal
Metal (other than DOT drums) 1 gal 5 gal 5 ga 5 gal
Safety cans 2 gal 5 galt 5 gal 5 gal
Metal drums 60 gal 60 gal 60 gal 60 gal
Glass or approved plastic 660 gal 660 gal 660 gal 660 gal

What law requirements must safety cans meet?

Aside from complying to OSHA’s definition of what a safety can is, it must be noted that if liquid being handled falls under Class1A, a safety can is only allowed to store two gallons of it max. Approved cans are usually included in a list published by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These testing laboratories perform regular inspections on equipment production as well as evaluate and test units to ensure these meet nationally recognized standards and are safe for use.

When assessing or purchasing safety cans, be sure to check if these are listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or approved by FM Global. These are nationally recognized third-party laboratories that conduct follow-up quality assurance programs assuring compliance to OSHA and the National Fire Protection Association

All Type I and Type II Safety Cans available at GenLab meet OSHA and NFPA requirements, are certified by FM, UL/ULC and TÜV (TÜV Technical Inspection Association Certified).

How do you know if your safety storage container is “safe”?

Doing a proactive assessment of safety storage containers is not difficult, time-consuming and expensive as you probably think it is. Having a checklist of items to inspect makes way for an intuitive approach to flammable and hazardous liquid safety issues. Here are some points to consider when auditing the containers you have or are still planning to purchase.

Safety cans

  • Any unapproved cans or plastic consumer gas cans with no “safety can” label should be discarded to avoid fire code and OSHA violations.
  • Always check the conditions of your safety cans. To follow codes and standards, these should be self-closing and leak-proof, be able to reduce internal pressure produced by heat, restrict flame from reaching contents through the spout, and restrict contents from exploding of spewing to avoid further spread of fire.
  • Perform manual check on the can’s spring-loaded mechanism and ensure smooth opening of the spout cap against the spring pressure, not sticking at any point. Seeing a bent or worn portion of the operating mechanism entails unit replacement. Self-closing lids make sure that containers are not left open after a personnel fills in a safety can or pours out of it, eliminating possible creation of fugitive flammable vapor that could be ignited by a heat source.
  • Flame arrester should be free of holes or other damage. This perforated metal device found on each opening of a safety can take in and disperse any heat or flame from outside of the container, avoiding instances of vapor ignition and explosion.
  • To know if your cap closures are leak-tight, try turning a partly filled safety container upside down over an open bench can.
  • Safety cans that fail drop tests might be prone to dangerous leaks or spills.
  • When storing and transferring liquids always check if you are using appropriate-sized cans.

Metal and plastic drums

  • Ensure your safety drums are situated on spill containment pallets, spill centers, and have approved drum lids. These should not be left open without lids and sitting directly on the floor or wooden pallets.

Flammable liquid cabinets

  • Make sure your cabinets have doors that latch properly to avoid violating any code.
  • Modifications to your cabinets like adding in padlock hasp or attaching screws not only harbor unsafe conditions but also violates FM certification, therefore units must be replaced and removed from service.
  • Unapproved cans and liquids should not be stacked on and found around safety cabinets

Using flammable or combustible liquids in your production line can present potential disasters especially if fluids used are not compatible with your equipment. Aside from following the tips presented above, accidents can further be avoided by properly identifying, organizing, and segregating your liquids. This can be done through color-coded containers.

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