How to safely store chemicals
Not only is clean and organized storage paramount to running an efficient lab or production space, but safety depends on it when working with chemicals.
By sorting your chemical materials into specific groupings, you can build confidence knowing that your staff will not run into harmful situations when an inevitable spill or accident occurs.
It all starts with determining what kind of chemical storage cabinet your lab needs, as well as the quantity of materials you are looking to keep on hand. Of course, the proper safety equipment for handling hazardous materials is necessary, such as proper gloves, protective wear, and any pouring or chemical safe pumps. For more information about gloves and safety equipment check here.
Choosing a chemical storage cabinet
When selecting a chemical storage cabinet, it is important to know the hazard class of the chemicals you will be storing. All chemical storage containers should meet a set of specific requirements, which are outlined by industry standards.
It’s best to carefully manage the amount of hazardous chemicals on hand, keeping cabinets organized and not over packed. Each facility may have unique storage limitations based on fire codes,and must be evaluated based on your location.
Flammable storage cabinets
These cabinets are designed to contain flammable materials and slow the spread of fire towards the materials in the cabinet. Flammable storage cabinets must meet the standards of various certifications, such as OSHA, NFPA, IFC, CSA, IOSH, NEBOSH, and UL.
Flammable chemical cabinets are built with self-closing doors and do not require any ventilation. These design elements are intended to maintain the safety performance of the cabinet in the presence of a fire.
A safety can holds up to 5 gallons (20 liters) of hazardous liquid. They are designed with a strainer in each fill-and-pour opening as well as a spring-closing lid and spout cover, providing a means to relieve internal pressure when exposed to heat or fire.
These safety containers should be UL, OSHA, FM, NEBOSH, and NFPA approved.
Corrosive storage cabinets
Unlike the previous two storage containers, a corrosive storage cabinet does not necessarily have specific regulatory requirements. They are intended to resist corrosion, often built with polyethylene or steel with corrosion-resistant coating.
It is possible to find a cabinet that meets both flame and corrosion requirements, which can come in handy if you have any chemicals with multiple hazard classifications.
In some situations, a wooden cabinet will meet the standards for resisting corrosion. However, these cabinets cannot be used for oxidizing acids, like nitric acid.
Venting of corrosive cabinets can be preferred when storing volatile corrosives (like hydrochloric acid). In this case, it is recommended to have sufficient ventilation via fume hoods to avoid any toxicity or unsafe exposure.
To avoid unintended reactions, it is critical to separate chemicals based on their specific hazard classifications.
It is good practice to store flammable chemicals in their own designated containers, especially keeping oxidizers away from combustibles. It is also key to keep corrosives away from substances that may react with and release toxic or flammable vapors. Segregating acids will help avoid any unwanted interactions.
Some recommended categories to utilize when sorting and storing chemicals:
- Water reactives
Other types of materials that require more strict storage requirements:
- Compressed gasses
For more information on laboratory safety products and resources, visit our lab safety supply page.
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