5 Tips on Safe Chemical Storage

Dealing with hazardous chemicals is a necessity for many businesses. For some, it is even the primary focus of operations. These substances can prove harmful even under the best of conditions, but if you fail to develop appropriate safety measures, risks increase significantly.

Each business will have to determine their own safety protocols and procure needed equipment based on the particular chemicals they store and use. However, your company isn't the first to deal with hazardous chemical storage, and you can certainly learn from those who have gone before.

If you want to ensure the safety of workers and facilities, as well as the security of your business, here are a few chemical storage tips to consider.

1. Develop Policies and Procedures
Proper handling and storage of chemicals begins with policies and procedures designed for safety. OSHA and EPA rules, regulations, and guidelines can help you determine appropriate standards for operations.  These could include policies and procedures concerning employee training, the handling and storage of chemicals, emergency response, waste disposal, and so on.

You'll also have to consider the scope and specifics of your operations in order to create effective and efficient policies and procedures that work for your business. You don't necessarily have to reinvent the wheel, but you should tailor standard operating procedures (SOPs) to your particular needs. From there you can train employees to behave in a safe and responsible manner.

2. Provide Appropriate Safety Equipment
In addition to providing workers with personal safety gear, you need to make sure storage facilities are outfitted with proper safety equipment. This starts with installing sensors designed to monitor the environment and alert you of potential hazards like changes in temperature, humidity, and air quality, as well as gas leaks, fires, and so on.

You'll also need emergency equipment such as sumps and doorway spill barriers, fire extinguishers, chemical rinse stations and showers, and products designed to clean chemical spills, just for example. Covering your bases in terms of safety equipment is just as important when storing chemicals as developing policies and procedures and training employees.

3. Address Ventilation Concerns
Leakage is always a concern when storing chemicals in your place of business. With liquid chemicals, you can prevent leaks from escaping, to a degree. By using appropriate storage cabinets, platforms, and spill barriers you can at least contain spills until you are able to clean them up.

Chemical gases, on the other hand, can disperse quickly through the air, increasing hazards for employees (inhalation or skin exposure) and facilities (combustion) alike. If containment isn't possible, your best bet to avoid harm is with proper ventilation. This is also necessary for maintaining safe and healthy interior air quality when handling and storing chemical gas in general.  In emergency situations, venting storage areas could prevent serious accidents.

4. Ensure Appropriate Storage
There are several layers to safe chemical storage. The process begins with the containers chemicals are stored in. Choosing appropriate materials, sizes, and seals is essential to safety, as is properly labeling storage containers.

This is followed by selecting storage platforms, shelves, cabinets, and lockers.  Making sure that incompatible chemicals are separated as necessary will also prevent hazard. The right storage can reduce the risk of threats like combustion and explosion, as well as contain leaks.

Finally, there is the area of your facility in which cabinets, containers, and chemicals are stored. Proper environmental controls and adequate ventilation are a given, as are safety and emergency equipment.  However, you may also want to limit access to areas where hazardous chemicals are kept to reduce the potential for accidents, injuries, theft, and so on.

5. Prioritize Security
Chemical storage comes with inherent risks. The safety of workers and facilities depends on your ability to plan for and prevent negative outcomes. Access to harmful chemical and chemical storage areas should be limited to only those employees that are qualified and trained to handle them.

This means installing security features like locking doors, locking cabinets, and potentially even additional measures like monitored security cameras or biometric entry. Securing hazardous chemicals may not prevent leaks or other potential hazards, but it will keep these substances out of the hands of anyone who is not properly trained to handle them.