For most companies, chemicals have an important role to play in their daily business operations. Whether it’s a proprietary substance to be used in their manufacturing process or solvent for cleaning and degreasing, some types of hazardous materials thrive in a workplace.
One of the most important measures that will help mitigate the risks that come from exposure to chemicals to the employees and the environment is proper chemical storage and handling.
For the majority of hazardous chemicals, it is recommended that they should be properly stored far from people’s reach in a suited chemical storage cabinet and have trained personnel to handle them whenever necessary.
Segregation of Chemicals
Keeping all chemicals well-segregated is necessary to ensure employee safety. With proper segregation, you can make sure that all incompatible materials will be able to avoid inadvertent contact. Combustion, fire, toxic or noxious gases, and violent chemical reactions are consequences of an improperly done chemical segregation.
Acids should never be stored with bases while oxidizers should not be kept with reducing agents or organic materials. The best practice should include a separate storage or have a physical barrier for proper segregation.
Considerations for Storage Cabinets
When you are choosing a chemical storage cabinet to segregate different types of chemicals, the very first consideration would be the compatibility of the specific chemical with the material that was used in the construction of the storage cabinet.
The corrosive property of a chemical also needs to be considered if you are looking at metal cabinets. For instance, corrosives like strong acids can corrode a cabinet with metallic construction. Acids like nitric acid, sulfuric acid, acetic acid, chromic acid, and hydrofluoric acid, as well as common bases like potassium hydroxide, ammonium hydroxide, and sodium hydroxide should not be kept in metal.
For these substances, the better choice would be epoxy-painted or non-metallic cabinets. These will provide better service life.
For your flammables, then a metal cabinet is recommended. This is exclusively available for flammables and will help minimize the risks and damages to the employee and the facility in case of an accident or spill.
Additional Safety Considerations
There are more factors that need to be considered when choosing a storage cabinet such as the size of the storage area, as well as the quantity of chemicals that need to be stored.
Aside from chemical compatibility concerns, proper handling should require weekly inspections of the storage area and a strong inventory control. You also have to make sure that the chemicals in the area are properly labelled and stored.
You should never store chemicals on fume hoods, bench tops, and in traffic aisles. Also, shelves should not be overcrowded and your items should never be above the eye level.
If you belong in a company that is in the process of redesigning the storage areas, make sure that you re-evaluate your hazardous waste procedures.