Refrigerators & Freezers in Labs

Certain refrigerator/freezer units are designed specfically for the storage of flammable materials, and to prevent potentially explosions. This is critical, since flammable vapors coupled with an ignition source could result in an explosion. In other words, a normal kitchen refrigerator is not safe for the storage of chemicals. Before purchasing a new unit, or using an existing one, consider if chemicals will be stored there. Note that many lab refrigerators will be around for decades and so one cannot guarantee that a normal unit will never be used for flammables storage. There are two types of refrigerator/freezer models, depending on the type of hazardous material the unit will store.

Flammable Material Storage Refrigerators/Freezers

These have no internal electrical components which could trigger an explosion. These must always be used for storage of volatile materials. Also known as “lab-safe” or “de-sparked” refrigerators.

Explosion-Proof Refrigerators/Freezers

For storage of volatile materials in areas with explosive atmospheres. Rarely necessary in lab environments.

All refrigerator/freezer purchases and modifications on campus must be pre-approved by EH&S at 805.893.8243. In addition, all approved units for storing flammable materials must be labeled with signage reading, “Approved For Chemical Storage, No Food Storage”. All refrigerator/freezer units not approved for storage of flammable materials must be signed as “Explosion Hazard”, or equivalent. Contact EH&S for your free labels.

Examples of signage on campus lab refrigerators

lab refridgerator signage

UCI refrigerator which exploded when chemicals were stored in a unit which was not designed for flammables

exploded refrigerator