Chemical Storage Safety

Written by Shirley Parker
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Before being allowed to work with hazardous chemicals, all employees or other workers should be educated about the nature of the hazards involved. If done improperly, chemical storage can present extreme hazards to personnel, visitors, and even to residents of other buildings and to the environment. Many rules have to be repeatedly referred to, so that safe practices can be followed. A basic rule is that chemicals from different hazard classes should be stored in distinct areas, away from each other. That is, flammables, oxidizers, poisons, reactives, corrosives, and so forth should be stored separately from each other.

Chemicals should also be stored out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources. Containers should be appropriate for the contents and labeled in detail, including date of receipt and date of first opening. No container should be in physical contact with another. Shelves should be coated with chemical-resistant materials, so that leaks or spills don't eat through the shelving material. They should be sturdy enough to hold the weight placed on them.

It's very important that no chemical be stored above shoulder height. That means below the shoulder height of the shortest person likely to be authorized to work in a lab or a specific manufacturing shop, for example. This may need to be adjusted from time to time. Liquids shouldn't be stored with solids, and in some cases, may need to be stored under refrigeration.

Compatible Chemical Groups

All responsible employers will have a list of chemical groups that are compatible for safe storage; however, all other storage rules must also be followed. Groups of chemicals include acids, bases, flammables, peroxide formers, water-reactives, oxidizers, and toxins. However, some chemicals react with other chemicals in the same class and must be labeled accordingly. Storage cabinets meeting specific approval must be used in all cases.

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