In November 2018 WorkSafe updated its guidance materials on storing chemicals in the workplace. The guide outlines some of the common health and safety risks for storing chemicals and provides guidance on how to manage those risks. It includes a storage checklist that sets out the standard precautions everyone should take and a detailed chart that shows which types of chemicals to separate and by how far.
The following article provides you with some of the key points to consider when storing chemicals.
Why is it Important to Safely Store Hazardous Chemicals?
Even when not in use, chemicals can still pose a risk. Flammable and oxidizing chemicals may cause or contribute to a fire, corrosive chemicals can injure people and damage property and structures they come into contact with and toxic chemicals can poison people who are exposed to them. Compressed gases can also suffocate or poison workers if they leak.
Some chemicals are not compatible with one another and when incompatible chemicals mix they may:
- ignite or explode
- release toxic, flammable or corrosive gases, or
- corrode chemical containers, causing them to leak.
It’s important that you identify which chemicals are incompatible and ensure that hazardous chemicals are stored safely in a way that:
- minimises the chance of any incidents and reactions, and
- reduces the chance that stored chemicals will contribute to or worsen an incident.
When identifying chemical incompatibility you should also consider:
- combustible materials such as wood or paper, which may increase the likelihood or severity of a fire
- non-hazardous chemicals that may react with hazardous chemicals
- the materials that containers are made out of, as some hazardous chemicals are not compatible with the materials other chemicals containers are stored in, for example, aluminium containers may react with strong alkaline solutions
- potential ignition sources, including work areas that may be used for hot work such as welding or grinding, and
- firefighting equipment, as the equipment suitable for one hazardous chemical, may not be suitable for all chemicals you store.
The following diagram provides the hierarchy of control measures when managing the storage of chemicals.