McMaster University

McMaster University


Storage of Hazardous Chemicals

  • properties of the chemicals
  • flammables cabinet
    • flammable or combustible
    • protection from fire, spark, heat and flame
    • contain spilled flammable chemicals
    • protect worker from spills and splashes during storage
  • storage units
  • construction design and materials
    • placement
    • component features
    • ventilation
    • temperature

How to Evaluate Your Storage

  • update your chemical inventory
  • identify the need for flammables, combustibles and corrosives
    • can you eliminate the need for the chemical?
    • substitute of non-hazardous chemical?
    • substitute for a less hazardous chemical?
  • identify minimum required to be on hand
    • bulk purchases are to be avoided
      • the higher the hazard, the less you should have on hand
      • consider how long it would take to fully use up the hazardous product
    • consider sharing reagents
  • identify if storage unit is to be shared
    • determine size required
  • determine if venting is required
    • venting is not mandatory but is put into practice in some buildings and not others

Select and Purchase a Storage Unit

  • contact PRIOR to purchasing a storage unit
  • review needs
  • inspect location
  • evaluate choice of storage unit
  • consult building facilities regarding their policy on venting
  • purchase
  • place work order to have vented if necessary
  • registration of unit in FHSSO equipment inventory
  • retention of certification documentation
  • retention of user manual

Flammable Cabinet Construction

  • New flammable liquid storage cabinets must conform to ULC or cUL standards, or be listed as meeting NFPA 30
  • Older cabinets certified only to UL can continue to be used, but cannot be used for new installations.
  • Verify safety stamps on the unit prior to installation
  • The cabinets must be made of metal having a double wall construction with a 3-point door latch and a liquid tight door sill raised at least 50 mm above the floor.

Flammable Cabinet Ventilation

  • It is not a requirement for flammable storage cabinets to be ventilated. If there are ventilation openings in the cabinet:
    • the ventilation opening must be sealed with materials providing fire protection at least equivalent to that for the construction of the cabinet (example the “bungs” provided with the cabinet).
  • If the cabinet is to be vented, it must meet the following requirements:
    • the cabinet must be vented outdoors; and
    • the fan used to ventilate the cabinet must be rated intrinsically safe (fume hood fans meet this requirement); and
    • the piping for the cabinet must be schedule 40 Black Iron piping (0.154 to 0.22in thickness) or equivalent; and
    • flash arrestors must be installed in both openings to the cabinet. One opening should be used for the vent, and the other left open for incoming clean air.

Flammables Cabinet Labeling

  • Cabinets must be conspicuously labeled, indicating that the cabinet contains flammables and that open flames and sources of ignition must be kept away.
  • The  manufacturer should have provided signage on the equipment at the time of purchase.
  • If no signage is present on the unit, contact for follow-up.

Ontario Fire Code Limits

  • No more than 500L of flammable liquids per cabinet, no more than a group of three full cabinets within 30M of any other group of three full cabinets.
  • No single container may exceed 5L

Good Practices for Storage of Flammable Liquids in Laboratories

  • containers shall be kept closed at all times other than when transferring to another container;
  • do not exceed the permissible storage capacity for the flammable storage cabinet or for the fire compartment in which the cabinet(s) is/are located;
  • do not store flammable and combustible materials with non-compatible materials;
  • always purchase and store the smallest quantity of flammable liquid necessary for the work to be done;
  • do not place cabinets near exits;
  • unauthorized individuals must not be allowed access to laboratories containing flammables.

Flammable Spill Protocol (FHS Safety Office, 2007)


Deal with the spill yourself ONLY on the advice of your supervisor.  If you are unsure, call for emergency assistance: Hamilton Health Sciences Sites - 5555; St Josephs Hospital Sites – 7777; Central Campus Sites - 88

  1. Extinguish ignition and heat sources if safe to do so (e.g. Bunsen burner, DO NOT turn electrical equipment on/off).
  2. Evacuate personnel from spill area.
  3. Post “SPILL” signs on all doors. Barricade spill from traffic.


  1. Review SDS.
  2. Re-enter only after chemical is no longer in the air. Wear protective equipment (eg. gloves, lab coat, goggles, boots).
  3. Cover spill with absorbent pads.  Place pads in bags in fume hood awaiting disposal.
  4. Call Housekeeping or Facilities Services for a final wash of the area.
  5. Report spill to your supervisor and Safety Office (x24956)


Updated 2022-05-05

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