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Understanding OSHA Chemical Storage Requirements

OSHA Chemical Storage Requirements

OSHA chemical storage requirements are essential for any company, laboratory or manufacturing facility working with hazardous materials. Specific federal regulations require safe chemical storage to protect humans, animals, property, and the environment. Hazardous materials, including biological, chemical and radiological substances, can threaten health and safety if they leak or spill from their primary storage container.

Regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set strict regulations for chemical storage.

What Does OSHA Consider a Hazardous Chemical?

According to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), a hazardous chemical is any chemical that can cause a physical or health hazard. This determination is made by the chemical manufacturer, as described in 29 CFR 1910.1200(d).

Examples of hazardous materials include:

  • Explosives
  • Gases
  • Oil-Filled Equipment
  • Flammable or Combustible Liquids
  • Flammable solids
  • Oxidizing Agents and Organic Peroxides
  • Toxic and Infectious Substances
  • Radioactive Substances
  • Corrosive Substances
  • Other Miscellaneous Materials, Such as Asbestos

OSHA Chemical Storage Safety Requirements

Improperly transporting or containing chemicals can cause injuries. According to OSHA guidelines, workers should be aware of unsafe practices, such as improper handling and unhealthy situations. Hazardous chemicals pose health and safety risks even when workers are not transporting them.

OSHA’s chemical storage requirements include the following basic legal guidelines:

  • Employees must receive a written plan and training sessions to work with chemicals
  • Chemicals must be accompanied by a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)
  • SDSs must be readily available

OSHA recommends workers follow certain steps to prevent hazards when storing chemicals1:

  • Keep storage areas free from clutter, explosives, and flammable conditions
  • Prevent chemical storage conditions that may encourage rats or pests
  • Place stored materials at least six feet from hoistways and at least 10 feet from exterior walls
  • Separate chemicals that cannot be stored together

How Do You Organize Chemical Storage?

It’s important to understand chemical reactions and the risks involved with chemical containment. If you need to store chemicals in a small space, academic laboratory or stockroom, avoid storing chemicals on the floor or within close proximity to incompatible materials.

EPA and OSHA chemical storage requirements specify the need for secondary containment, which provides a backup containment method to prevent hazardous spills in the event a primary containment method fails.

Store liquids in unbreakable packaging located inside a form of secondary containment, such as a chemical storage cabinet. According to OSHA secondary containment requirements, a secondary container must be provided when the capacity of an individual primary container exceeds 55 gallons or when the aggregate total of multiple containers exceeds 100 gallons. Use clear labeling and secure the secondary containment method to prevent unauthorized access.

What Chemicals Cannot Be Stored Together?

Storing incompatible chemicals too close together can create a dangerous fire, explosion or toxic release. Here are five common chemicals and their incompatible counterparts.

  1. H20: Water is incompatible with many chemicals, including, but not limited to, acetyl chloride, chromic acid, sulfuric acid and sulfur trioxide.
  2. Nitric acid: Commonly used in fertilizers and explosives, nitric acid should not be stored by acetone, acetic acid, alcohol, chromic acid, aniline, hydrocyanic acid, hydrogen sulfide and flammable substances.
  3. Zinc powder: When used as an ingredient in paint, cosmetics and batteries, do not store zinc powder near sulfur.
  4. Oxygen: tore oxygen away from hydrogen, flammable substances, oil and grease.
  5. Chlorine: Do not store chlorine near ammonia, acetylene, benzene, butadiene, hydrogen, petroleum gases, sodium carbide or turpentine.

More information about OSHA chemical storage, including details about incompatible chemical storage, are available in their Safety Data Sheets.

Does OSHA Require a Chemical Inventory?

Yes. According to OSHA’s HCS, employers must make a chemical inventory list of hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Inventory lists ensure employees have access to chemical property information, first aid instructions, emergency procedures and disposal practices.

Polystar Secondary and Spill Containment Solutions Can Ensure You Follow OSHA Chemical Storage Requirements

Solve compliance issues and stay ahead of primary and secondary OSHA chemical storage requirements with help from Polystar Containment. When you choose Polystar, you get the right containment solution with top-rated, industry-trusted products. Whether you need spill prevention containment pads, long-term or temporary secondary containment or primary chemical storage buildings, our products can help you eliminate future regulation failures and remain equipped for mandatory audits.

Browse our entire collection of products today. Or, feel free to reach out and contact us if you want to learn more about our spill prevention systems.


1 https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha2236.pdf

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