When it comes to the compliant storage of flammable liquids, the UK has a minimum requirement which is regulated by the HSE (Health & Safety Executive). The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) set the minimum requirements for the protection of workers from fire and explosion risks related to dangerous substances and potentially explosive atmospheres and from gases under pressure and substances corrosive to metals and requires employers to control the risks to the safety of employees and others from these hazards.

The regulations are supported by Approved Codes of Practice (ACOP) and guidance documents and within the Control and Mitigation Measures ACOP you will find reference to the fire resistance of cabinets, other enclosures, cupboards and bins.

Fire resisting cabinets or other enclosures should provide a minimum of 30 minutes fire resistance in respect of integrity, except where explosion relief provisions are made and fire resisting cupboards and bins should ensure that every side, top, floor, door and lid provides a minimum of 30 minutes fire resistance in respect of integrity, except where provision is made for explosion relief and/or ventilation.

The 30 minute standard is the minimum requirement under UK regulations however, for quantities of flammables in excess of the recommended maxima employers/duty-holders may find cabinets with enhanced fire performance help in making their risk assessment demonstration. It is of course the responsibility of the employer/duty-holder to ensure that cabinets manufactured to any particular standard or design specification meet the minimum legal requirements.

Equally, the use of cabinets with enhanced fire performance should not be seen as a substitute for the provision of dedicated storage rooms and outdoor storage areas for the safe keeping of containers which are nominally empty or are not needed for current production work.

The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 states:

“It is recommended that the maximum quantities that may be stored in cabinets and bins are no more than 50 litres for extremely, highly flammable and those flammable liquids with a flashpoint below the maximum ambient temperature of the workroom/working area; and no more than 250 litres for other flammable liquids with a higher flashpoint of up to 55°C."

These quantities are intended to be viewed as recommended maxima representing good industry safe practice, rather than be taken as absolute limits. There is intended to be some flexibility with these limits, where it is recognised that the design of modern day buildings and the pattern of work can sometimes make adherence to these quantities difficult to achieve; for example, in large or open-plan workrooms/working areas. However, where the employer/duty holder does identify a need to store quantities in excess of the recommended maxima, a robust demonstration of this requirement would need to be made and in particular the risk assessment should take into account:

  • The properties of the materials to be stored or handled in the workroom/working area. For mixed storage the worst case situation should be applied, i.e. all materials in the storage cupboard or bin should be considered as being the same material as the one that has the lowest flashpoint.
  • The size of the workroom/working area and the number of people working in it.
  • The amount of flammable liquids being handled in the workroom/working area and the quantities of liquid that may be accidentally released or spilled ignition sources in the workroom/working area and potential fire spread in the event of an ignition exhaust ventilation provision to the workroom/working area and/or the storage cupboard or bin.
  • The fire performance of the storage cupboard or bin.
  • The arrangements for closing the cupboard or bin doors/lid in the event of a fire means of escape from the workroom / working area.

Cabinets manufactured to the European standard BS EN 14470-1:2004 should be given consideration as they offer fire protection of up to 90 minutes. This additional time can help protect lives and property and buy time for site responders and/or the local authority fire brigade to attend and deal with an incident.

If you would like to find out more about this topic and our extensive range of drum and IBC main stores and fire rated cabinets please contact us via email or call 01506 430309. We are happy to come to your site to give advice on your specific applications and we also offer a confidential, free of charge and without any onus to buy site assessment service.

Whatever you decide we recommend that you consult with your insurance provider before you make any purchase as they will have a vested interest.

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