Chemicals in storage are at risk from fire, chemical reaction and pressure build-up amongst other risks. Because of this, it’s vital that chemical storage best practices and regulations are always adhered to. We’ve outlined some of the key chemical storage principles to adhere to below.
Segregated chemical storage
Separate storage areas should be established for chemicals, flammable materials, and gas cylinders respectively. Storage areas should be easy to access, well-ventilated, temperature-controlled, and sufficiently lit. While there is no substitute for consulting the SDS for each chemical, certain conventions apply – such as not storing acids and alkalis together, strong acids with organic substances, or oxidizing substances with oxidizable materials. You can find more information on safe segregation of chemicals in this blog.
Safe flammable storage
Flammable materials should be secured in an approved, dedicated flammables storage cabinet, or rack-stored with a sprinkler system installed. The area must be clear from sparks, open flames or smoking. Storage drums must be fitted with pressure-relief venting caps.
Corrosives and acids must be stored in a dedicated storage unit, with containers inspected regularly for signs of leaks or corrosion. The area needs to be well ventilated with a system of hoods or ducts, and spill kits or secondary containment areas readily available in case of emergency. As with other hazardous chemicals, best practice is to move corrosive substances from large drums to smaller containers as soon as possible, wearing the appropriate protective safety equipment.
Tightly sealed chemical containers
To prevent leaks – whether of liquids or fumes – chemical containers should be tightly sealed and kept off the floor on pallets. Containers should never be stored higher than eye level on racks, which should in turn be securely attached to the walls. Storage areas should have purpose-built drains and spillage barriers in place ahead of transfer.
Manufacturers will specify the minimum and maximum temperature for storage on the SDS, and these parameters must be strictly adhered to. Using a temperature controlled storage area can prevent chemicals freezing, which can cause the container to crack, or overheating, which can cause flammable liquids or gases to become volatile. Use only purpose-built refrigeration units for chemical storage, with regular monitoring and logging of temperatures.
In case of emergency, chemical bunds provide a vital safeguard to contain spills or leaks. These trays should be placed under any container holding flammable, corrosive or hazardous materials, and provide a first line of defence to protect both the environment and employees.
Storing hazardous or flammable chemicals in bunds is standard safety practice in the UK, and all bunds must be inspected at least every 3 years.
Chemical storage regulations
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations require employers to control hazardous substances within the workplace. It is the employer’s responsibility to perform a risk assessment, put control measures in place, and train employees in safe practice and emergency procedures.
Employers must identify hazards and take preventive measures to reduce them. Bear in mind that these may not always be clearly marked hazards, but could be reactions between chemicals.
You can find a checklist for conducting your COSHH risk assessment here.
Managing chemical inventory
Maintaining a thorough inventory of what chemicals you have in storage is not just a question of workplace safety – it is a statutory requirement with heavy fines for non-compliance in some cases.
On an annual basis at least, trained personnel in your workplace should perform a complete inventory of every corner, cabinet, closet and container on premises. Ensure that each hazardous chemical is clearly labelled with its potential risks and storage recommendations set out in the SDS.
Expiry dates must be adhered to, since many peroxidizable compounds (among others) become dangerously volatile after just a few months. As always, buy and store only the minimum amount necessary.
In some cases it may be advisable either to outsource inventory to trained experts, or to make use of chemical inventory software to streamline the process. You can find out more about inventory software here.
Safety Storage are experts in chemical storage solutions and can help you define your chemical storage needs, whatever the size of your organization. We supply a wide range of tailored and off-the-shelf chemical storage solutions for businesses of all sizes. Find out more about our chemical storage options or contact us.
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