Chemical Storage Guidelines
General Considerations for Chemical Storage Locations
- Avoid storing materials on top of cabinets. Clearance from the ceiling must be 18 inches for sprinklered labs and 24 inches for not sprinklered.
- Chemicals should be readily accessible and to reduce accidents, materials should not be stored on shelves higher than 5 feet (~1.5m).
- Ensure container weight does not exceed the load rating of the shelves. Heavier items and larger containers should be stored on lower shelves.
- Wall mounted shelving is not recommended for chemical storage.
- Corrosive liquids and Particularly Hazardous Substances (PHS) shall be stored below eye level.
- Do not store chemicals in fume hoods.
- Provide adequate storage space for chemicals within your lab.
- Keep chemicals away from sources of heat or direct sunlight.
- Use secondary containment when possible.
- Use properly rated and labeled refrigerators and freezers when storing flammable materials.
Chemicals should be stored with an effort to separate or segregate incompatible materials. This will serve to reduce the risk of mixing in case of accidental breakage, fire, seismic event, or response to a laboratory emergency. Even when containers are tightly closed, fugitive vapors can contribute to incompatibility reactions, leading to the creation of a hazardous condition or accelerate the degradation of labels, shelves, cabinets, and the containers themselves.
There are a variety of strategies used to effectively segregate incompatible chemicals. Common sense should be used when setting up storage areas so that workflow is not disrupted and to minimize travel between storage and use locations. Simply alphabetizing chemicals is no guarantee that incompatible materials will be effectively separated. Instead, one of the most common and effective strategy for storing chemicals utilizes a simple three-step approach.
- First materials are sorted by physical state (solids, liquids, and gases). Hazardous gases have particular storage requirements if they are stored outside of a gas cabinet or approved exhausted enclosure.
- Next materials are sorted from other incompatible materials. This is typically accomplished by grouping together materials with the same chemical reactivities (Chemical Storage Groups).
- Finally, the compatible materials within a Chemical Storage Group should be organized so that it will be easy to find and return containers. Organization approaches such as alphabetical (by name), carbon-length, and metal/counter-ion are commonly and effectively used.
Compatible Chemical Storage Group Classification System
The Chemical Compatibility Storage Codes document is a great resource for organizing your chemicals via the above groups.
- Flammable Materials
- Corrosive Materials
- Peroxide Forming Chemicals
- Particularly Hazardous Substances
- Compressed Gas Cylinders
- Cryogenic Liquids
Additional Chemical Separation Segregation Resources
Please see the Chemical Incompatibility Chart for some additional specific chemical storage incompatibilities. For specific inquiries, the NOAA Chemical Reactivity Worksheet and the NOAA CAMEO Chemicals are also great resources.