The proper storage of chemicals is another important element of an effective chemicals management program. This is because:
- Some chemicals are inherently unstable or highly reactive, or may become unstable under certain conditions
- Some chemicals present a fire or explosion hazard if not stored properly
- Spills or leaks of chemicals can have a detrimental impact on worker health and the environment.
Risks to the health and safety of workers, other persons, and to the environment posed by the storage of hazardous material can eliminated or reduced by using the following good storage practices:
Safety Features of Bulk & Production Chemical Storage Areas
- Area is secured and sufficiently covered
- Containers are stored on impervious surfaces (i.e. epoxy treated surfaces)
- Secondary containment units are in place. Note: Secondary containment should be at least 110% of the volume of the largest container stored and/or greater than 10% of the total volume of the stored substance(s)
- Area is well ventilated
- Accessible safety shower/eye wash nearby (within 30 meters)
- Restriction on drinking, eating, and smoking
- Spill kits with materials for containment and absorption
- Fire‐fighting equipment, fire hoses, and/or fire extinguishers
- Signs indicating the PPE required to be worn when working in the area should be posted in visible location(s)
- Aisles and forklift routes are clearly marked (if applicable)
- Incompatible materials are segregated
- Flammable and combustible materials are stored away from ignition or heat sources
- Chemical containers should not be stacked higher than three (3) meters (10 feet). Chemical drums should always be stacked with the closure device upward. Drums should be stacked fewer than four (4) drums high, preferably with pallets between layers. Side‐mounted drums should be secured or chocked to prevent them from rolling
Regular review and inspection of chemical storage areas will help ensure that chemicals are stored safety and the appropriate controls are in place. A checklist is provided in the resources section below.
Storage of Flammables
Although regulatory and other definitions may vary, flammable liquids are generally defined as any liquid having a flashpoint below 37.8 degrees Celsius. This information can be found on the SDS. Common flammables include:
- Glues & Adhesives
- Solvent based inks
- Cleaning solvents
- Dedicated storage buildings, areas, or cabinets
- Separated from flammable materials, potential ignition sources, etc.
- Ventilation to eliminate the build up of flammable gases
- Intrinsically safe electrical installations and lighting
- Secondary containment
- Fire suppression equipment
- Smoke detection/fire alarm systems
- Warning signage
In some cases, different classes or groups of chemicals, if mixed together, may create increased risks for fire, explosion, formation of toxic environments, etc. Certain classes or groups of chemicals must therefore be protected, stored separately, or kept at a safe distance from other chemicals.
Chemical compatibility information can be found on the chemical’s SDS, and should always be reviewed before the chemical is stored with other chemical types. The chemical compatibility chart below provides general guidance on storage comparability for chemical groups.
A Chemical Reactivity Worksheet (CRW) program containing a detailed chemical reactivity database for common hazardous chemicals can be downloaded from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website below:
Chemical Reactivity Worksheet
p(banner important). Note: This program needs to be downloaded and installed on your PC.
Additionally, certain chemicals may react negatively to different storage materials (i.e. containers or shelves/racking). It is therefore important to ensure that containers, shelving/racking, and storage room building materials are compatible with the chemicals being stored. This information can also be obtained from the SDS.
Relevant Higg Index Facility Environment Module (FEM) 3.0 indicators:
Chemicals Management – Level 1: Questions 6 & 9