Storage Guide to Chemical Safety in Laboratories
Proper storage of hazardous chemicals is an essential aspect of laboratory safety. Without proper equipment and operating procedures in place, dangerous incidents may occur which may put employees in jeopardy or risk causing harm to the environment. Unwanted reactions can result in explosions, toxic fumes being released, or cause burns and other kinds of physical damage. In this storage guide to chemical safety in laboratories, we outline the best practices to ensure safe storage of chemicals.
Learn More: Setting Up a Laboratory: Storage Equipment Must-Haves
All containers containing chemicals must be labelled appropriately and clearly with their name and hazard category. This ensures that laboratory staff can easily identify the contents of the containers and take the necessary precautions during handling. Labels should include the name of the chemical, the date of receipt, the manufacturer's name, and any relevant warnings or safety measures that need to be followed.
Categorising chemicals into different laboratory storage shelves, away from one another according to their compatibility, is crucial to laboratory safety. Some chemicals cannot be stored together with others as they can cause dangerous and potentially life-threatening reactions.
Creating compatibility groups to prevent accidental mixing is an excellent safety measure to incorporate into laboratory protocols. These groups should also have identifiable markers to ensure that they do not get mixed with other groups even if they are taken and moved to different locations.
Under-sink storage is often a convenient location for storing chemicals in laboratories.
However, this is not recommended due to the risk of water damage, as well as the potential for chemicals to mix and react with each other. It is best to use proper stainless steel shelf racks or other types of storage cabinets to store all chemicals.
Store Dangerous Substances at Low Levels
It is essential to store all dangerous substances at low levels for safe retrieval. While it may seem obvious, in high pressure environments such basic protocols may sometimes be forgotten. It’s important to cultivate a culture of safety inside a laboratory and ensure that potentially harmful chemicals are stored below eye level.
Heavy or large containers in particular should never be stored at high levels as they may cause accidents or injuries when moving them in and out of storage. Low-level storage also helps prevent spills and provides easy access to the chemicals when needed.
Proper Storage Conditions
Different chemicals have varying storage requirements which need to be adhered to strictly. Chemicals should be stored in appropriate containers, with proper labelling and clear instructions on handling and disposal.
Shelves should not be overloaded and avoid using materials that can potentially react with the chemicals being stored. Heavy duty wire chrome shelving or stainless steel are good options for most places. Additionally, chemicals should be kept in well-ventilated areas, away from heat sources, direct sunlight, and incompatible materials.
Following these best practices outlined above can help minimise risks of potentially catastrophic lab incidents. When such incidents occur, the cost to mitigate the damage can be exorbitant and it is always best to have the right equipment on hand and the best protocols in place to avoid such situations.
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