The last thing that you want to do is get a phone call in the early hours of the morning letting you know that the facility you manage had a catastrophic explosion. The building is destroyed, there are casualties and the surrounding community has been affected.
Managing the chemicals stored in your warehouse, manufacturing facility or laboratory is serious business. If they are not handled and stored properly, you could have a “bomb in your facility.’
In order to help you avoid a catastrophic situation, it is important to understand chemical storage groups, store requirements and the 10 best practices for chemical storage.
Flammables and Combustibles - Includes liquids with flash points < 100°F.
Volatile Poisons - Includes poisons, toxics, and select and suspected carcinogens with strong odor or an evaporation rate greater than 1 (butyl acetate = 1).
Oxidizing Acids - All oxidizing acids are highly reactive with most substances and each other.
Organic and Mineral Acids - Organic and mineral acids.
Compatible Storage Groups: Small amounts of double-contained oxidizing acids can be stored in the same compartment with organic acids if the oxidizing acids are stored on the bottom shelf.
Exceptions: Acetic anhydride and trichloroacetic anhydride are corrosive. These acids are very reactive with other acids and should not be stored in this group. It is better to store them with organic compounds in Group 7: Non-Volatile Liquid Poisons. See Section 12.9, Reactives.
Liquid Bases - Liquid bases.
Liquid Oxidizers - Oxidizing liquids react with everything, potentially causing explosions or corrosion of surfaces.
Non-Volatile Poisons - Includes highly toxic (LD50 oral rat < 50 mg/kg) and toxic chemicals (LD50 oral rat < 500 mg/kg), select carcinogens, suspected carcinogens, and mutagens.
Compatible Storage Group: Store non-volatile liquid poisons with non-hazardous liquids (e.g., buffer solutions).
Exceptions: Anhydrides (e.g., acetic and trichloroacetic) are organic acids; however, it is better to store them with this group, since they are highly reactive with other acids.
Metal Hydrides - Most metal hydrides react violently with water, some ignite spontaneously in air (pyrophoric).
Acceptable Storage Facilities/Methods: Store using secure, waterproof double-containment according to label instructions. Isolate from other storage groups.
Dry Solids - Includes all powders, hazardous and non-hazardous.
Acceptable Storage Facilities/Methods:
Compatible Storage Groups: Metal hydrides, if properly double-contained, may be stored in the same area as dry solids.
Exceptions: Solid picric or picric sulfonic acid can be stored with this group, but should be checked regularly for dryness. When completely dry, picric acid is explosive and may detonate upon shock or friction. See EH&S' detailed chemical safety information on picric acid, which includes updated, detailed information on laboratory chemicals.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, a workable plan and diligence on the part of management and employees can keep everyone safe. Ensure that those employees that handle hazardous chemicals are well trained and supervised.
Follow these best practices and everyone will be safe.