Proper chemical storage and handling is essential to preventing a potentially catastrophic chemical safety incident in the workplace. The HSE receives hundreds of thousands of reports of serious workplace injuries each year in the U.K. due to exposure to hazardous materials and resulting fires or explosions. However, adherence to common chemical storage procedures could prevent many of these injuries and incidents.
First and foremost, hazardous substances must always be stored in approved chemical storage containers and chemical storage cabinets designed and built specifically for that purpose. To help further minimise the risk of injury or incidents in your workplace and maximise workplace safety, follow these important chemical storage tips:
Chemical Storage Do’s:
- Purchase and store only the minimum quantity needed of any hazardous substances and be sure to use all leftover amounts before replenishing the supply. Storing an excessive level of chemicals on site will only serve to increase the risk of incident or injury.
- Clearly and accurately label all chemical storage containers—for both new and waste chemicals—with the contents, hazards and origin information. Doing so minimises the risk of misuse or mishandling of chemical containers.
- Always follow the chemical producers’ instructions for proper handling, storage and disposal of materials. Ensure all workers are educated on how to properly handle, store and dispose of hazardous chemicals before they work with them.
- Implement a set procedure for hazardous waste storage and disposal, either by participating in hazardous waste collections or taking hazardous waste to a collection facility. Even waste hazardous chemicals pose a significant threat of causing a chemical incident.
- Be sure to store chemicals and hazardous materials away from heat or flames and take steps to eliminate ignition sources nearby as the most common chemical incidents are fires and explosions.
- Only allow trained, authorised personnel to access chemical storage areas.
- Keep safety guidelines and chemical storage procedures updated and posted in full view of workers and site visitors.
Chemical Storage Don’ts
- Don’t mix waste chemicals in the same storage containers as mixing two or more waste chemicals in the one container can cause quite violent reactions.
- Don’t store peroxides with flammable solvents. Peroxides can form explosive materials if they come into contact with solvents.
- Don’t store strong acids and bases with solvents, as the combination can produce heat, gas and other violent reactions.
- Don’t store acetic acid or acetic anhydride, which are highly flammable, with acids.
- Don’t store pyrophoric substances near flammable solvents as they can act as an ignition source for flammable liquids.
- Don’t store cardice (most commonly known or referred to as ‘dry ice’) in sealed containers, as the over-pressure resulting from the liberated CO2 can cause an explosion.
Ensure safe chemical storage
In addition to manufacturer guidelines, always be sure to follow local regulations and applicable laws regarding chemical storage requirements, including building, fire and electric codes.
The number one cause of chemical accidents in the workplace is lack of education or understanding around safely handling hazardous chemicals. By taking the advice above into account you can significantly reduce the risk of workplace accidents due to hazardous materials in your facility.
To learn more about safely storing chemicals in the workplace check out some of our other articles or get in touch with one of our experts today. We can help assess your needs and recommend a storage solution that’s right for you.