Hazardous materials can cause serious harm when they are improperly stored. To better understand how to store dangerous chemicals, you must first understand what makes a chemical hazardous. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines hazardous and toxic substances as those chemicals present in the workplace which are capable of causing harm. Hazardous chemicals are generally defined as either a health hazard or a physical hazard. There are a wide variety of health hazard chemicals, which include carcinogens, corrosives, various toxins, and chemicals that are capable of damaging the eyes, skin, lungs, or mucous membranes. A chemical is a physical hazard if it has flammable, combustible, reactive, oxidizing, pyrophoric, or explosive properties. Proper storage of both types of hazardous chemicals is absolutely essential. By adhering to the following storage suggestions, you can greatly lower the risks of working with these chemicals.
Ensure chemical containers and their seals or stoppers are appropriate for the type and quantity of chemical stored. In general, chemicals should be stored in the containers in which they are supplied. However, some chemicals have extremely specific container requirements. For example, storing liquid nitrogen in cryo tanks are specifically designed to contain fluids at extremely low temperatures. Storage containers should be clearly labeled and dated to ensure unmistakable identification of each substance.
Storage According to Chemical Properties
Storage of chemicals and chemical wastes should be primarily based upon the properties and mutual reactivities of each chemical. Incompatible chemicals must be kept segregated from one another in order to prevent dangerous reactions. Your work building should be equipped with adequate storage space for a variety of chemicals. Follow all local and national guidelines on chemical storage.
Proper Storage Locations
Avoid storing chemicals on the floor or higher than eye level. Chemicals should be stored no higher than eye level and never on the top shelf of a storage unit. Since sunlight can affect some plastic containers or the chemical contents, containers or chemicals that can be affected should be stored in an area where they will not be exposed to direct sunlight.
Containers containing hazardous chemicals should be inspected on a regular basis to ensure their integrity. If a storage container is damaged or leaking, it must be removed to a safe area for repacking or disposal. When disposed of, be sure to follow all proper disposal and safety protocol. Improperly disposed of chemicals can be a hazard to waste management employees and the environment. Have your building inspected on a regular basis to ensure that all safety standard and storage requirements are being properly met at all times.
When storing dangerous chemicals, you must take into account the specific properties of each chemical. These properties will determine where and how the chemical may be stored safely. By following the prior instructions, you can ensure the safety of yourself and your coworkers. Be sure that all employees are properly trained on handling and storing the chemicals they will be working with. Keep safety procedures and chemical guidelines posted so that all employees have access to them. In addition, make sure that you provide adequate safety training on a regular basis to keep employees up to date on any changing safety standards and protocol.