Proper hazmat storage prevents injury, fines

As anyone who fishes can attest, getting caught over the limit — whether it’s one too many trout on a line in an isolated, northern lake or a huge trawler netting too many tons of albacore in the middle of the open ocean — can result in a hefty fine and other stiff sanctions.

The idea is to levy a penalty large enough so that fishers loose the value of their catch plus fork over a painful, ‘don’t-ever-do-that-again’ fine.

Now, improperly storing hazardous materials will trigger even higher fines, and for the same reason.

The Ministry of Environment is adopting the same approach as fish and game wardens to penalise companies improperly handling and storing hazardous material. When fully implemented, manufacturers who store raw material — from paint to corrosives and other contaminants — will face much heftier fines and stiffer ‘we-caught-you-red-handed’ sanctions all the way up to temporary plant closures if storage cabinets do not comply with regulations.

The reason behind the tough, new and potentially very costly tactic is because a leading cause of industrial fires is improperly stored and handled flammable liquids. To minimize the hazard, the government wants businesses to identify and inventory any chemicals in the workplace, storing them in code-compliant safety cabinets. If an inspector finds non-compliance, the days of a slap on the wrist are gone.

Poor housekeeping award
There are countless examples of poor housekeeping resulting in spontaneous fires and explosions.

In schools, for example, it is common to find chemicals stored alphabetically — easy for students to find what they’re looking for when doing experiments but also for disaster to strike. In one recent case at a university, diluted solutions of hydrochloric and nitric acids were discarded in a waste container. Sometime during the night, the acids reacted with each other, creating pressure from the gases generated.

The pressure was strong enough to destroy the one-litre waste container kept in a storage cabinet under a fume hood. It also blew the doors off the cabinet, upseting equipment on a counter. Fortunately, nobody was standing nearby when the explosion occurred.

Many businesses commit the same error, failing to properly isolate hazardous materials that can interact and ignite a fire or worse.

Easy prevention
Storing hazardous material must be done according to Canadian laws and regulations, all of which are approved by the Underwriter Laboratory of Canada, Factory Mutual Canada and the National Fire Code of Canada.

Proper safety cabinets meet nine other, key criteria:
•    Insulated, 18-gauge steel construction, double-walled, with 1½" air space.
•    Chemical-resistant finish, inside and out.
•    Dual vents with built-in flash arresters.
•    Liquid-tight containment sump at least 2" deep, to hold leaks.
•    Highly visible warning label "Flammable — Keep Fire Away."
•    Easy close or self-latching doors with three-point latches for added fire protection.
•    Doors with fusible link mechanism that holds doors open but melts at 165°F for automatic closure.
•    Built-in grounding connector.
•    Adjustable leveling feet for balancing on uneven surfaces.

There are numerous UL Canada-approved safety cabinets available, each designed to store specific types of hazardous or flammable material. They offer protection against not only potential explosions or fire but also the wrath of a ministry inspector armed with a citation book.

Isaac Rudik is a compliance consultant with Compliance Solutions Canada Inc. (, provider of health, safety and environmental compliance solutions to industrial, institutional and government facilities. E-mail Isaac at [email protected] or phone him at 905-761-5354.