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Why is it so important to store chemicals properly? Did you know it’s a good idea to have a chemical storage plan?

If there’s one thing we’ve all learned from our high school chemistry class, it’s that certain chemicals can have unwanted reactions when mixed together. It’s also the reason that we’re taught not to eat certain things, like paint chips. (Let’s just say, not all chemical mixtures have immediate reactions.)

In all seriousness, chemical management is essential to the ongoing livelihood of your warehouse, laboratory, or manufacturing facility. Without a proper chemical storage plan in place, you run the risk of toxic exposure to employees, catastrophic explosions, fires, and unfortunate casualties.

So what’s the protocol for proper chemical storage? Keep reading to learn more.


An Effective Chemical Storage Plan

Mixing and matching chemicals are NEVER advised. Different chemicals have different storage requirements. There are several fundamentals in storing chemicals. These fundamentals are simple, and some much more obvious than others.

A few of the fundamentals are as follows:

  • Chemicals should be stored according to hazard class
  • ALL chemicals should be stored away from direct sunlight and localized heat
  • ALL chemical containers should be labeled correctly, including the date received as well as the date upon opening
  • Hazardous chemicals should be stored below shoulder height of the shortest employee
  • Shelving should be covered with a chemical-resistant paint or coating
  • Shelving storage should NEVER exceed their weight limit
  • ALL employees should be aware of the hazards associated with all hazardous chemicals and materials
  • Solids and liquids should ALWAYS be separated
  • Inspect chemicals constantly
  • Remove any expired chemicals

The CDC has an entire outline for chemical storage safety fundamentals. Any manufacturer, storage facility, and laboratory must be in compliance with all of these fundamentals.

In terms of actual storage, there are nine chemical groups that are associated with different risks which you should be aware of. In addition to the fundamentals, the way in which each chemical group is stored is considered best practices for chemical storage safety.


Group 1: Flammables and Combustibles

This group includes liquids with a flashpoint greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The main concern here is to protect and prevent the ignition of flammable liquids. In order to protect them, they should be stored in a nonflammable cabinet or a nonflammable storage freezer/refrigerator.

Here’s where it gets tricky: flammables and combustibles can be stored with groups two and five—but not with both at the same time.


Group 2: Volatile Poisons

This group includes poisons, toxins, and both known and suspected carcinogens. Anything with a strong odor or an evaporation rate greater than one will fall into this group.

The main concern here is to prevent any exposure or inhalation of the volatile poisons. In order to ensure prevention, they should be stored in a nonflammable cabinet or refrigerated containers of less than one liter.

As long as group five (liquid bases) are not present, volatile poisons can be set along side group one.


Group 3: Oxidizing Acids

This group would include any acids containing anions with a higher oxidation potential than the standard potential of an H+ ion or proton. The most common example would be Nitric acid.

To store these chemicals safely, you must prevent contact with other oxidative acids and corrosives. This requires each chemical to be double-contained, with the primary container kept inside a canister. Then they must be stored in segregated safety cabinets.

In small quantities—two bottles or less—the oxidizing acids don’t need to be segregated. The small quantities may also be stored with group four (organic and mineral acids), as long as they are put on the bottom shelves.


Group 4: Organic and Mineral Acids

Mineral acids refer to chemical combinations while organic acids refer to compounds consisting of carbon and hydrogen atoms. These need to be kept separate from bases and oxidizing acids.

They should be stored in a safety cabinet, and can also be stored with the chemicals in group seven (non-volatile liquid poisons). When it comes to group four, certain chemicals such as acetic anhydride and trichloroacetic anhydride which are extremely reactive should be stored completely separate.


Group 5: Liquid Bases

Anything that has a lot of hydroxide ions can be considered a liquid base. Think sodium bicarbonate.

When storing liquid bases, you need to prevent contact with reactive acids. They can be stored in tubs or trays in a safety or normal cabinet. If volatile poisons are not present, liquid bases can be easily stored with group one.


Group 6: Liquid Oxidizers

These chemicals react with everything because they readily give off oxidizing substances. This makes for a catastrophe waiting to happen.

In order to prevent a catastrophe, liquid oxidizers must be completely isolated from other substances, preferably in a refrigerated container. There are no compatible storage groups.


Group 7: Non-Volatile Poisons

This group includes a range of toxic chemicals, known and suspected carcinogens as well as mutagens.

When storing these non-volatile poisons they should be kept separate from non-volatile liquid poisons. They also should NOT be stored on open shelves. Non-volatile liquids should be enclosed, and both should be stored in a refrigerator or cabinet. They should also be stored at bench level.

Non-volatile poisons can be stored with organic and mineral acids with the exception of anhydrides.


Group 8: Metal Hydrides

Metal hydrides are considered to be pyrophoric. In other words, they may spontaneously ignite with air. They also react violently with water.

This means they have to be separated from liquids and in most cases, air. Storage requires secure, double-containment that is also waterproof. As long as they are stored accordingly, they can share a storage area with group nine (dry solids).


Group 9: Dry Solids

Dry solids refer to all chemical powders, hazardous and non-hazardous.

They should be stored away from all liquids to avoid potential reactions. Open shelves are okay as long as the dry solids are stored above liquids. Of course, the highly toxic powders with warning labels should be stored specifically in cabinets. The most hazardous of all powders should be completely separated from everything.

With dry solids always adhere to the chemical safety information detailed on the labels.


Leave the Chemical Management to the Pros

Your chemical storage safety is incredibly important, which is why you should rely on professionals to carry out your chemical storage plan. If you have chemical products that need blending or need to be packaged or stored, give us a call. We can help with it all.