Chemical Storage and Labeling

Proper Storage of Chemicals

Safe storage of your hazardous laboratory chemicals is dependent on 2 variables: 1) location and 2) the compatibility of the types of chemicals needing to be stored. Your goal is to make sure that chemical containers are stored in places where they aren’t likely to fall or break, but if they do all results will be relatively manageable.

For example, storing hazardous liquids below eye level minimizes the likelihood of exposures to the face and eyes. In addition, storing chemicals with compatible chemicals decreases the chance of violent reactions occurring if the containers do break and the chemicals mix accidentally.

Storage Location: Proper storage locations for hazardous chemicals refers to shelves, cabinets and sometimes appliances (like refrigerators or freezers). Examples of improper storage locations include: the bench top, the fume hood, the floor, drawers, above eye level, or under the sink.

Compatibility: Compatible chemicals have similar hazards. Chemicals with similar hazards, if mixed together, produce mild or no reaction. To avoid violent reactions, incompatible chemicals with dissimilar hazards should be stored separately. Determining which chemicals can be safely stored together can be a multiple step process.

To determine which of your hazardous chemicals you can store together safely, consult our Chemical Compatibility Chart.

Additional information is available for specific storage considerations of:

Flammable chemicals
Combustible chemicals
Corrosive chemicals
Toxic chemicals
Oxidizing chemicals

In addition to the information above, practice the following guidelines:

1. Distinguish between hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals.

2. Use the physical state of the hazardous chemical (dry, liquid or gas) to determine general storage location guidelines:

Dry, non oxidizing, non flammable chemicals may be stored on a shelf or in a cabinet alphabetically. Containers of hazardous and non hazardous chemicals may be stored on the same shelf.
Dry oxidizing chemicals should be stored in secondary containment (chemically compatible, usually plastic, container which will contain the contents of the primary container if that container breaks) on a shelf or in a cabinet to separate them from other hazardous or non hazardous chemicals.
Oxidizers are the only dry chemicals requiring secondary containment, although you may choose to store some toxics in secondary containment for safer handling.
Dry flammable chemicals should be stored in a Flammables Storage Cabinet with other flammables.
Hazardous liquid chemicals should be stored in secondary containment wherever they are stored (shelf, cabinet, refrigerator, freezer, etc.)
Flammable liquids should never be stored in a household refrigerator or freezer. Purchase a unit approved for storage of flammable material. This is sometimes called “intrinsically safe” or “flammables storage” refrigerator/freezer. Do not go to the extra expense of buying an “explosion proof” unit.
Follow the Chemical Compatibility Chart to determine which chemicals may be stored in the same secondary containment.
Gas cylinders need to be secured to a stationary object by a chain or strap two thirds of the way up the cylinder to prevent them from falling. Best practice is to secure them individually. In some cases it may be acceptable to secure small groups of cylinders together. Contact us to ask for guidance from the ES Laboratory Safety Coordinator responsible for your laboratory.
Cylinders of liquid nitrogen should not be stored in areas that do not have ventilation, such as cold rooms.
3. Use the manufacturers’ container labels, Material Safety Data Sheets and the Chemical Use Planning Form chemical list to determine the hazards of your chemicals.

4. Listed in the table below are the categories of hazardous chemicals (from the UVM Chemical Use Planning Form chemical list) commonly found at UVM. This list will enable you to start to combine location and compatibility concerns.

Chemical Category

Storage Consideration

Inorganic Acids

Store in an Acids or Corrosive Cabinet. Use secondary containment to separate from other acids and bases. (for example: organic acids, inorganic bases, oxidizing acids)

Organic Acids

Store in an Acids or Corrosive Cabinet and in secondary containment to separate from other acids and bases. If oxidizing acids are present move them to the flammables cabinet in secondary containment to separate from flammables.

Oxidizing Acids

Store in an Acids or Corrosive Cabinet. Use secondary containment to separate from other acids and bases. (for example: inorganic acids, inorganic bases) Remove ALL organic material from this cabinet.

Inorganic Bases

Store in a Bases or Corrosive Cabinet. Use secondary containment to separate from other acids and bases. (for example: inorganic acids, oxidizing acids)

Flammable and Combustible Liquids

Store in a Flammables Cabinet (preferably a metal, commercially manufactured cabinet designed for storage of flammables)

Gases

Gas cylinders need to be secured by a chain or strap half to three quarters of the way up the cylinder to prevent them from falling.

Organic Peroxides

This material is an organic oxidizer. Store by itself in secondary containment to separate from other organic and inorganic chemicals.

Oxidizers

Store in secondary containment to separate from other organic and inorganic chemicals.

Reactives (Water, Pyrophoric & Explosive Materials)

Due to the varying characteristics of these materials contact the ESF for guidance.

Toxic and Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals

Store in separate Toxics storage area OR in separate secondary containment in a Flammables Storage Cabinet.

Many chemicals have multiple hazards so make sure you know all the hazards.

For example:

Butylamine is listed in category 5 of the UVM Chemical Use Planning Form, “Flammable and Combustible Liquids” because butylamine’s primary hazard is flammability. However, an amine is also an organic base. Therefore butylamine is flammable and corrosive.

For this material the best storage location is within a Flammables Storage Cabinet but it requires its own secondary container because of the additional hazard of corrosivity. This is because it is like flammables in being organic but unlike flammables in being other than a neutral pH.

For additional assistance or information regarding Chemical Storage and Compatibility, contact the Environmental Safety staff via e-mail esf@uvm.edu).

Chemical Labeling

Properly label all chemicals with full English name (no chemical structures or abbreviations), hazards, date and responsible party.  Proper chemical labeling is an important step in emergency planning and prevention. In the event of an incident such as fire or personal exposure, identifying the physical and health hazards of chemicals can be critical in minimizing adverse health effects and property damage. Improperly labeled and/or unidentified chemicals can ultimately end up as “unknown” chemical waste. Determining the contents of an “unknown” chemical is an involved and costly process and also presents unique concerns and hazards for chemical waste handlers and to the environment. Please take care to avoid creating “unknown” chemicals in your laboratory.

For the above reasons, it is important to follow all Environmental Safety (ES) guidelines in reference to labeling. To assist you in this process, ES offers the following information and supplies:

Self Inspection Checklist – see Chemical Labeling Guidelines (Download PDF)
Prudent Practices chapter 4.D - Labeling and Storage of Chemicals in UVM’s Laboratories Labeling (Download PDF)
Non-Hazardous Chemical Key (Download PDF)
ES Orange Chemical Labels
FAQ Chemical Safety Questions 8-11
For additional information on Chemical Waste Labeling, Storage and Disposal visit: http://www.uvm.edu/~esf/wastedisposal/chemwaste.html