Storage of Laboratory Chemicals-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, January 3, 2011

Storage of Laboratory Chemicals

Safe storage of laboratory chemicals is a critical element of laboratory safety.   The first thing to remember is:
Storage of chemicals alphabetically is NEVER correct!
After that, the rules are pretty obvious:

  • Chemicals should be stored so that incompatible chemicals are separated. This is important in preventing a serious problem in the event that the incompatible materials contact one another in the event of an accident or leak. For example, flammables should NEVER be stored with oxidizers, and strong acids and strong bases must be kept separate as well.
  • Chemical compatibility information is available on the chemical's Material Safety Data Sheet.
  • A UL-rated flammable storage cabinet must be used to store flammables when there are more than five gallons present in the lab.
  • A corrosive storage cabinet is strongly recommended for storage of acids and bases. If you cannot have separate cabinets for acids and bases (few people are able to do that!) be sure that acids and bases are on separate shelves or store one group in secondary containment, to prevent mixing of the items in the event of a spill or accident.
  • Acetic acid should be treated as a flammable rather than a corrosive.
  • Refrigerators used for storage of flammable liquids should be either rated for flammable storage or be explosion proof.
  • New construction should follow NFPA 45 for guidelines on flammable and combustible liquid storage. EH&S should be contacted for details on this.
  • Chemical storage in hoods and on bench tops should be minimized. The hood is a working area and excessive storage limits working space and may also degrade the efficiency of the fume hood.