The Essentials of Storage – Revisited

Requirements for Storing Chemicals

If you have a laboratory or research center using chemicals, it is important to know how to properly store them. There are guidelines or requirements for chemical storage that are given by the Occupations Safety and Health Administration or OSHA, that should be carefully considered. Chemical storage should follow these requirements.

Simply putting chemicals on shelves is not enough. They should be separated and stored according to their different kinds. There should be different storage places or cabinets for different kinds of chemicals.

Remember that chemicals interact, and so this should also be considered when they are stored. Keeping chemicals away from each other especially if they have negative interaction is very important. To give an example, solvent should be kept in fire resistant cabinets but must not be stored together with oxidizing agents. Do not put acids (nitric, hydrochloric, and sulfuric) and bases (sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, slaked lime, sodium carbonate, and aqueous ammonia) together in one cabinet. When corrosive bases and joined with acids there is a risk that the mixture will generate heat. Labels should be put on chemical containers and labels should be put on cylinder shoulders.

There should be at least five chemical storage cabinets as recommended by the OSHA. These five storage cabinets can contain the following: general chemicals for the first cabinet where chemicals are put depending on category and hazardous rating, acids for the second cabinet, corrosive acids for the third, corrosive bases for the fourth, and flammable chemicals for the last cabinet. The cabinets should always be locked and they should be kept far away from sinks and water sources. When liquids are kept in safety cabinets, excessive chemical vapors may be a concern. The cabinet in these cases should be placed in cool, dry locations away from sunlight. Doors of the cabinets or storage places should be installed with hazardous signs.

OSHA does not have a specific color coding system, but they recommend that you create a system that will help to identify specific chemicals. For example, you can use red for flammable chemicals, yellow for reactive or oxidizing agents, chemicals hazardous to health can be colored blue, corrosives chemicals can be white, and green and gray for those chemicals that are only moderately hazardous.

Training on safety storage procedures should be given to people assigned to handle chemicals. The recommendation of OSHA is that training should done every few months. If there are new chemicals, every staff should know about it and they should be taught on how to properly store it. Chemical storage is very important. If done well, your property and your people are protected. You should ensure that all chemicals are handled by trained and qualified personnel.

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