If chemicals are part of your business or manufacturing process, then you must give careful consideration to how they are to be stored. Most chemicals will be hazardous and will pose some risk to humans or the environment so it is important that they are stored in a safe manner. Safe chemical storage reduces the risk of injury to or illness of workers as well as the negative impact that the chemical may have on the environment.
The first step is to determine the hazards associated with each chemical that you have. Your chemical supplier will be able to help and they will provide a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for each chemical. The MSDS will provide details of the chemical composition, the hazard class, recommendations for chemical storage and handling, and measures to be taken in the event of exposure. The MSDS needs to be made available to any staff member who will be working with the chemical.
You need to determine the most efficient, save and effective means of chemical storage in your business or workplace. There are some key questions that you need to ask yourself.
- Can you store them indoors or outdoors? If they are highly flammable, it will be safer from a fire risk point of view to store them outdoors.
- Does the MSDS recommend that they are not exposed to direct sunlight? If it does, then you need to provide protection or shade in a chemical store.
- Are your chemicals adversely affected if they are exposed to extreme temperatures? You may need to consider frost protection or cooling in your chemical store.
- Are they compatible with each other? If not, you will need to segregate them or keep them apart from each other to ensure correct chemical storage.
- Are they dangerous to the environment? In the event of a leak or a spill, how can you prevent the chemical from entering storm water drains and making its way to a water course causing pollution? How will you deal with a chemical spill if it occurs? If any of these three questions apply, you will need to store your chemicals on bunds, spill trays or in a bunded store to ensure the capture any leaked chemicals. Such an action can prevent the leak from entering the watercourse.
- Does the location of your chemical store make sense from an operational point of view? Also, is the chemical storage unit accessible to fire fighters in the event of a fire on site?
- Is your chemical storage secure?
- Is it well ventilated to eliminate harmful vapours?
To summarise, in order to ensure safe and efficient chemical storage, use a common sense approach. Read the MSDS, consider your operational requirements, and try to minimise the risks associated with accidental spillage and exposure to your chemicals.