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What are Chemical Storage Safety OSHA Requirements?

Two workers holding clipboards check OSHA chemical safety requirements

Safe chemical storage is required by specific federal regulations to protect humans, animals, property, and the environment. Hazardous materialsā€”including biological, chemical and radiological substancesā€”can threaten health and safety if they leak or spill from their primary storage container.

Thatā€™s why regulators, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set regulations for chemical storage. EPA and OSHA regulations require secondary containment, which provides a back-up containment method to prevent hazardous spills in the event a primary containment method fails.

What Does OSHA Consider a Hazardous Chemical?

According to OSHAā€™s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), a hazardous chemical is any chemical which 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 liquids
  • Flammable solids
  • Oxidizing agents and organic peroxides
  • Toxic and infectious substances
  • Radioactive substances
  • Corrosive substances
  • Other miscellaneous materials, such as asbestos

Chemical Storage Safety and OSHA Requirements

Injuries can result from improperly transporting or containing chemicals. 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.

OSHAā€™s basic legal requirements for chemical storage include the following:

  • 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?

Itā€™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.

Store liquids in unbreakable packaging located inside a form of secondary containment, such as a chemical storage cabinet. 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 which include, but are 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: Used as an ingredient in paint, cosmetics and batteries, zinc powder must not be stored near sulfur.
  4. Oxygen: Store 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.

Learn more about chemical storage as defined by OSHAā€™s Safety Data Sheets, including details about incompatible chemical storage.

Does OSHA Require a Chemical Inventory?

Yes, OSHAā€™s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires employers 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.

Get Compliant with Polystar Secondary and Spill Containment Solutions

Solve compliance issues and stay ahead of regulation requirements with the right containment solution when you rely on Polystar for industry-trusted products. Our spill prevention and secondary containment systems help you eliminate future regulation failures and remain equipped for mandatory audits.

Browse our collection of products or contact us to learn more about Polystar Containmentā€™s secondary containment and spill prevention systems.



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

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