Chemical Storage and Compatibility > General Guidelines

Safe chemical handling requires routine inspections of chemical storage areas and maintenance of stringent inventory control. The inherent hazards of chemicals can be reduced by minimizing the quantity of chemicals on hand. However, when chemicals must be used, proper storage and handling can reduce or eliminate associated risks. All chemical storage areas and cabinets should be inspected at least annually and any unwanted or expired chemicals should be removed.

General Guidelines:

  1. Limit access to chemical storage areas to authorized personnel only.
  2. Ensure all containers of hazardous chemicals are properly labeled with the identity of the hazardous chemical(s) and appropriate hazard warnings.
  3. Segregate all incompatible chemicals. Detailed instructions and resources to assist in segregating incompatible chemicals into storage groups may be obtained by following Steps 1-5 in the Chemical Storage and Compatibility section of this web site and by utilizing the resources listed on the side of this page.
  4. Chemicals should be stored no higher than eye level and never on the top shelf of a storage unit. Do not overcrowd shelves and ensure that they are sturdy.
  5. Never store chemicals on the floor (unless they are placed into secondary containment trays) and kept from extending into traffic aisles.
  6. Liquids should be stored in unbreakable or double-contained packaging, or the storage cabinet should have the capacity to hold the contents if the container breaks.
  7. Store acids in a dedicated acid cabinet.
  8. Store highly toxic or controlled materials in a locked, dedicated poison cabinet.
  9. Chemical fume hoods should not be used for large volume storage since containers may block proper air flow and reduce available work space.
  10. All chemicals should be labeled and dated upon receipt in the lab and on opening. This is especially important for peroxide-forming chemicals such as ethers, dioxane, isopropanol, and tetrahydrofuran. Solutions should be labeled and dated when prepared.
  11. First aid supplies, emergency phone numbers, eyewash and emergency shower equipment, fire extinguishers, spill cleanup supplies and personal protective equipment should be readily available and personnel trained in their use.
  12. Chemicals stored in explosion-proof refrigerators or cold rooms shall be sealed and labeled with the name of the person who stored the material in addition to all other required hazard warnings.
  13. Keep all stored chemicals, especially flammable liquids, away from heat sources and direct sunlight.

Related Links:

NIOSH Pocket Guide

Sample Compatibility Groups

Developed By
Office of Environmental Health & Safety
Providence, RI 02912 Box 1914
Last Updated on 07/14/2005