Knowing the correct practices in storing chemicals safely will help to avoid potentially dangerous or even fatal incidents in the laboratory or workplace. Chemicals, especially those that are hazardous when in contact with skin or eyes, or when paired with another chemical, should be labelled clearly, kept in small quantities and only stored with compatible chemicals that offer low risk of any reaction.
Labelling is an crucial aspect of storing chemicals safely – all chemicals must be labelled clearly with both the name and chemical symbol, and any hazard warnings that apply (for example – corrosive, flammable, toxic, etc).
It is essential when storing chemicals safely that their compatibility with one another is considered. A chemical may be completely stable alone, or when paired with a compatible chemical – however, it may react with a different chemical and cause a danger to those around it.
Keeping chemicals in large quantities is unadvisable. Should an accident occur, there should be limited amounts of hazardous material that could harm workers or lab occupants – if there is a large quantity, there is a higher risk of injury.
Keeping a close eye on your stock is essential. Storing chemicals safely involves disposing of time sensitive chemicals that expire, and disposing of surplus or unwanted stock that is simply taking up too much space. Keeping an up to date record of the stock will ensure that, should an accident occur, you have adequate knowledge on how to handle it.
Storing chemicals safely can come down to the container in which they are kept. Breakable containers should be avoided where possible – if their use is unavoidable, then they should be stored on a low shelf, below shoulder height. Storing plastic containers above shoulder height is fine, as long as there is sufficient access without threatening the integrity of the rest of the chemicals nearby.
Shelving should be kept as low down as possible, so that workers do not need to use benches or lab chairs in order to reach chemicals. Doing so can increase the risk of falling, and potential damage to containers. Chemicals which are used less frequently should be kept on higher/more inconvenient to reach shelves.
In order to store chemicals as safely as possible, clutter should be kept to a minimum. Not only does this allow for easier retrieval or locating of chemicals, it avoids any confusion in the workplace. Keeping mess to a minimum will also decrease the risk of trips.