How to Keep Flammable Chemicals Stored Safely

How to keep flammable chemicals stored safely

You may find yourself responsible for storing flammable chemicals.

Some businesses manufacture hazardous materials such as flammable chemicals.  Others use them in the course of operations, while some produce them as byproducts.  Regardless, you may find yourself responsible for storing flammable chemicals in the course of your operations.

If you frequently work with or produce hazardous materials, you are probably aware of the fact that you are under obligation to follow both federal and state laws governing safe handling.  At the very least, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are likely to have something to say about the handling and/or disposal of flammable or other chemicals.

Of course, you are also interested in the safety of your employees, clientele, and anyone on your property, as well as the security of your facility.  You don't want to take on any extra liability or the ethical burden of potential harm because you failed to exercise due diligence.

How, then, do you go about safely storing flammable chemicals in order to avoid catastrophe?  There are guidelines in place specific to your industry or the chemicals you store, but here are a few basics to get you started.

Storage Containers

There are several different types of containers typically used to store hazardous chemicals, flammable substance, waste, and other potentially harmful liquids.  You will likely use some kind of barrels or IBCs (intermediate bulk containers).

You need to make sure you choose the proper containers to house your flammable liquids for the sake of safety.  You should also follow general safety guidelines.

For example, you should never fill a container all the way to the top.  Always leave some head space in order to avoid spills and reduce the risk of pressure building.  You must also keep chemicals segregated - never put more than one chemical into a single container.

It's also a good idea to set up a labeling system for containers that includes the name of the chemical stored within, dates when chemicals are added, and perhaps amounts added so you can track inventory and remain aware of age (which can be important for disposal purposes).  There's more, though.

It's not enough to put hazardous chemicals into sealed drums.  You also need a secondary storage solution like shelving, platforms, or fire rated lockers, just for example, to double up on safety.

 

Platforms and Shelves

There are platforms and shelves designed specifically to accommodate barrels or IBCs containing hazardous materials.  These setups are not only sized appropriately for such containers, but they offer additional safety features.

Platforms often have sumps to collect any chemicals that might leak or spill during storage or loading and unloading.  Shelves are set up so that containers are separated, rather than being precariously stacked one atop another, increasing risk factors.

These structures may be open or enclosed to suit your business needs.  Enclosed storage may not be appropriate or useful for every operation, but if safety and security are paramount concerns, you should also consider the benefits of using fire rated lockers to store flammable chemicals.

Storage Lockers

There are plenty of different storage lockers to choose from, but there are a couple of main factors to consider when storing flammable materials.  First and foremost, you need to look for fire rated lockers that are designed to hold up during emergency situations.

These units are strong, durable, and built to meet safe handling and storage guidelines set forth by a variety of government agencies.  They should feature safeguards for chemical spillage and leakage, as well as proper ventilation.

Equally important to many businesses is the ability to customize storage lockers.  Once you have some idea of the volume of storage your operation requires and the storage containers you'll use, it's a major boon to be able to customize cabinets that not only comply with safety guidelines, but also accommodate practical storage needs.

Security

Although it wouldn't be easy to haul away drums full of flammable chemicals, you don't necessarily want to leave them out in the open and easily accessible.  Storing your hazardous chemicals under lock and key, so to speak, is preferable to allowing access to employees or making it easy for thieves.

Proper storage lockers provide an added layer of security that helps to ensure your flammable liquids won't grow legs and end up being illegally sold or used for criminal enterprise.