Gases are less stable than liquids or solids, so there is a greater risk of potential harm
Hazardous chemical substances come in many forms, including solid, liquid, and gas. Businesses may need to store these substances in various states, whether they are using them in the course of operations or they are created as a byproduct and stored until they can be properly disposed.
Proper storage is essential to maintaining the health and safety of workers and facilities, as well as preventing contamination outside facilities, in keeping with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) rules and regulations. However, gases can be particularly volatile and difficult to contain.
They can prove hazardous in ways not found in other chemical forms. Although both gases and liquids could be subject to leakage, for example, gases can disperse rapidly through the air, increasing risks to workers through skin contact and inhalation, as well as contaminating surfaces throughout a facility and escaping into the outside environment.
Gases are less stable than liquids or solids, so there is a greater risk of potential harm from combustion or explosion should they escape or be exposed to heat or other chemicals. In addition, liquid spills are easy to see for the purposes of containment. Gases are often invisible, at least to the naked eye.
In other words, it is imperative that gases be stored and handled properly in order to ensure the greatest possible safety. Here are a few tips for appropriate storage of gases in your facility.
You should never store more chemicals on-site than is absolutely necessary. This is especially pertinent when it comes to gases which could pose the greatest potential hazards. Know your limits, including what you require for ongoing operations and what volume you are legally allowed to keep. Check inventory regularly to make sure you operate within safe and acceptable limits.
Before you bring chemical gases into your facility, it's best to make sure you have proper storage areas already in place. These areas should include appropriate environmental controls that meet health and safety regulations for the type of chemicals you plan to store.
Such controls could include appropriate ventilation, as well as temperature and humidity controls. You should also equip your storage space with safety measures like ventilation hoods to clear away gases, sinks and showers designed to treat chemical exposure, sprinklers, fire extinguishers, or other fire safety measures in case of combustion, and doorway spill barriers or automatic seals to prevent contamination into other areas.
Storage Containers and Cabinets
There are several different steps you may want to take when it comes to physical storage of chemical gases. Generally speaking, gases will be transported and stored in appropriate cylinders/tanks to prevent leaking. You'll want a gas cylinder cage at minimum, and it should probably include a locking mechanism.
You may actually want several cages or cabinets in order to store like chemicals together and segregate particularly harmful substances, such as those that are highly flammable or combustible, acidic, poisonous, and so on. Some storage cabinets come with their own environmental controls and ventilation equipment for added safety. You'll need to explore all options to ensure the greatest safety when storing and handling gases.
Storage and Handling Policies and Procedures
Because many gases are so potentially harmful, it's not enough to have the right storage facilities and equipment. You also have to make sure you have comprehensive policies and procedures for storage and handling in place and that employees are properly trained. Policies should include guidelines on proper labeling of chemical containers, knowledge of how to handle and store gases, including segregation of incompatible chemicals, and what to do in case of emergencies such as leakage, exposure, contamination of facilities, combustion, and so on.
You must also provide proper safety gear and equipment, as well as access to MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) and other chemical reference materials. When in doubt, employees should be able to refer back to appropriate reference materials and the company's written policies and procedures for safety guidelines.
Several organizations, including OSHA and the EPA, provide rules and regulations regarding the safe handling and storage of chemicals for businesses, including specific chemicals such as gases. It is important to meet and exceed standards so that you remain in compliance with existing laws, maintain a safe and healthy work environment, and prevent environmental contamination and other hazards.