What Is The Best Way To Store Chemical Solvents?
All chemicals should be treated with respect, and solvents are no exception. In addition to implementing and enforcing proper handling procedures, it is important to store the solvents used in your workplace in a safe and organized manner. Proper chemical solvent storage safeguards human health, protects the environment, and helps prevent costly waste.
The Proper Way to Store Chemical Solvents
Implementing these solvent storage best practices in your lab, shop or manufacturing facility will prevent accidents and protect your workers’ health.
- Label all solvents clearly. Include the chemical name, hazard category (flammable, toxic, etc.) and date received.
- Use spill protection. Use spill trays to contain any leakage or spills.
- Make sure your storage area is properly ventilated. Use ventilated cabinets to store volatile and odorous substances. If this is not possible, store them in a secondary container and open only in a fume cupboard. Do not use fume hoods for long-term chemical solvent storage.
- Store flammable solvents properly. Use fire-resistant metal cabinets approved for flammable liquids. Do not store near sources of heat or flame. If you are storing only small amounts of flammable substances, check with your fire authority to determine allowable limits for open-shelf chemical storage. If refrigerated, make sure the refrigerator you use is spark-proof.
- Segregate incompatible materials. Educate employees about chemical interactions, and avoid storing materials that could create a dangerous reaction near each other.
- Do not stockpile hazardous materials. Order only what you can use in a reasonable period of time; avoid storing large amounts of flammable solvent.
- Get rid of hazardous chemicals you don’t need. Be sure to use proper disposal techniques.
- Seal containers tightly. This will prevent unwanted spillage and evaporation.
- Never store chemical solvents with food. Use separate cabinets, shelves and refrigerators for chemical storage.
- Use personal protective equipment. Employees handling solvents should wear appropriate eye protection, gloves, chemical aprons and closed-toe shoes. Respirators are also a good idea where appropriate.
- Use safe handling techniques. Transport chemicals in sturdy containers, including secondary containment units such as plastic totes or rolling carts with spill protection. Don’t lift solvent containers by the lid, do not overload carts or totes, and never leave chemical solvents unattended.
Chemical Solvent Storage: What NOT To Do
Some common chemical storage practices are actually quite dangerous. Look out for these red flags in your facility.
- Do not store solvents in a fume hood. This can block air flow and interfere with safe ventilation. Use a ventilated cabinet instead.
- Do not mix different waste solvents. Keep all waste solvents clearly marked in appropriate containers. Chlorinated/halogenated solvents in particular should be separated from other solvents because they react easily with flammable solvents, potentially causing explosion.
- Do not overload shelves. Be aware of the weight limits of shelves to avoid accidents. If you notice sagging or bowed shelving, remove solvents stored on that shelf to a different unit.
- Do not store solvents overhead. Loose lids could result in an unexpected solvent shower. Large containers stored overhead can also be unwieldy to take down, and are easily dropped and spilled.
- Do not store solvents under a sink. Undetected water leaks under a sink could corrode solvent containers, leading to chemical leakage.
- Do not store flammable solvents near thermostats or electric motors. Vapor from these solvents is highly flammable. Sparks from these units could cause an explosion even if no liquid is leaking.
Chemical solvents are useful and necessary, but it is important to store them safely. Use these guidelines to educate your employees in the proper way to store chemical solvents to help keep your workplace safe.