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Requirements for Storing Chemicals

Properly storing chemicals is very important especially for laboratories or research centers. Guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA, regarding the proper storage of chemicals should be given importance. Below are the requirements given by OSHA for proper storage of chemicals.

Simply putting chemicals on shelves is not enough. They should be separated and stored according to their different kinds. There should be different storage places or cabinets for different kinds of chemicals.

When you are storing chemicals, remember that these chemicals can interact. Chemicals with negative interaction should be stored away from each other. Solvents and oxidizing agents should not be put together, and solvents should be kept in cabinets that are fire resistant. Do not put acids (nitric, hydrochloric, and sulfuric) and bases (sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, slaked lime, sodium carbonate, and aqueous ammonia) together in one cabinet. When corrosive bases and joined with acids there is a risk that the mixture will generate heat. It is important to put labels to your chemicals, and cylinders should be labeled on their shoulders.

OSHA recommends that the number of storage cabinets for chemicals should be at least five cabinets. There should be one for general storage where you can put the chemicals depending on their categories or hazardous rating, the acid area where only acids are stored, an area for corrosive acids, one for corrosive bases, and another one for flammable chemicals. Chemical cabinets should be locked at all times when not in use and should be situated away from sinks and water sources. It should be a concern that there might be excessive chemical vapors from liquid chemicals kept in cabinets. It is best to put these cabinets away from the sunlight but in cool, dry places. There should be hazardous signs installed on the doors of the cabinets or storage places.

Since OSHA has no specific color coding system, research facilities and labs are encouraged to create their own color coding system to help identify chemicals quickly. In order to classify chemicals, here is a great color coding scheme to follow: flammable chemicals can be red, reactive or oxidizing agents can be yellow, chemicals hazardous to health can be blue, corrosive chemicals can be white, and chemicals that are moderately hazardous can be green and gray.

Safety storage procedures should be taught to those who handle the chemicals regularly. The recommendation of OSHA is that training should done every few months. New chemicals brought to the facility should be known to all and should be handled and stored properly. Chemical storage is very important. The protection of property and personnel are ensured when chemicals are stored properly. Trained and qualified personnel should be able to handle chemicals properly to ensure safety in the facility.

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Chemical Spills and How to Respond to It

Each day of our lives we can possibly come in contact with hazardous materials. In our everyday tasks and chores, chemical or hazardous materials are used to help us and make our tasks easier. Care must be exercised when handling chemicals, otherwise they can harm us and those around us. If you know the measures to take when there are accidental releases of these harmful materials, it could spell the difference between life and death. Dealing with hazardous materials is not a thing to be taken for granted because the tiniest release can become a real big problem.

Because gas is unseen, its release in the air around us can become very dangerous. You can save your life and the life of those around you if you have the right equipment and if you know what you should do. Even if the hazardous material released is just small, it still poses a dangerous situation and it must be dealt with immediately. You need not experience panic in cases like this, if you know the measure to take when it happens and you are able to act quickly to confine it.

It is beneficial to participate in a hazard communication program that is offered by your company. You can get all the information that you need so that you can understand the hazards of the chemicals you work with, chemical labeling and the material safety data sheet (MSDS). Your facility should also have a ‘Spill Guidelines’ which you should be familiar with. It is good to have a copy of ‘Emergency Response Plan’ which you can ask from your supervisor.

‘First Response Awareness Level’ is a good training for those workers who will be the first to respond because they are the ones who will likely be there when spills, leaks, or accidental release of hazardous materials occur. The employees must be trained on reporting procedures to use to initiate emergency response. There is a training for the first group of workers who actually respond to spills, called the ‘First Responder Operations Level’ training. This training is for workers who are tasked to be the first on the scene so that they can secure and contain the issue.

An operations level first responder will go to the scene and review it so as to determine the next best step, when a hazardous spill occurs. The area may be evacuated, place barriers around the spill to prevent the contamination from spreading. To prevent other workers from the danger, signs and caution tapes can be set up so that it will be known to all that there was a chemical spill.

The spill need to be contained. Workers should use the equipment designated for that particular hazard type that has been released.

Never used sandbags for chemical spills because they absorb hazardous substances.

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