Chemical Storage, Compatibility, and Transfer

Chemical storage guidelines can help control the health and physical hazards posed by chemicals during storage and use in the laboratory. A chemical inventory that is properly maintained and kept at a minimum can reduce the inherent hazards of chemicals. Unwanted, unused, or expired chemicals should be removed from the laboratory and chemical storage areas should be maintained and inspected annually.

Information on proper handling, storage and disposal of chemicals and access to related Safety Data Sheets (SDS) should be made available to all laboratory employees prior to the use of the chemical. The purpose of an SDS is to provide safety data about a specific hazardous substance. EHS strongly recommends that each person read the SDS of the product they are using prior to working with it. Refer to the Chemical Environmental Management System (CEMS) to look up SDSs or contact the vendor directly to obtain an SDS for one of their products.


Chemical Storage and Compatibility

Chemical STORAGE Compatibility-Chart 

Storing chemicals properly and with only compatible materials can reduce the inherent hazard of chemicals. General storage guidelines include the following:

  • Be sure to follow any storage information on the chemical’s SDS.
  • Ensure all containers of hazardous chemicals are properly labeled with the identity of the hazardous chemical(s) and appropriate hazard warnings.
  • Chemical fume hoods should not be used for large volume storage since containers may block proper air flow and reduce available work space.
  • Never store chemicals on the floor.
  • 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.
  • Segregate all incompatible chemicals. In general, separate solids from liquids, then separate organic from inorganic materials, then segregate into compatibility groups. Separate using secondary containment for incompatible chemicals stored on the same shelf. 
  • Keep all stored chemicals, especially flammable liquids, away from heat sources and direct sunlight.
  • Store Flammable liquids and combustibles in an NFPA approved flammable cabinet if the volume exceeds 10 gallons.
  • Do not store flammable liquids or explosives in a general refrigerator/ freezer unless it is rated for such storage.


Transferring Chemicals

When transferring chemicals from the stockroom to laboratory spaces, exercise caution to prevent accidents, spills, or exposure. Appropriate transport measures must be used, including using secondary containment and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment. 

  • Carry chemical containers in specially designed bottle carriers or a leak resistant, unbreakable secondary container. 
  • When transporting chemicals on a cart, use a cart that is suitable for the load and one that has high edges to contain leaks or spills. Chemical containers are to be in secondary containment when transporting them on a cart.
  • Transport cryogenic liquids and compressed gas cylinders in freight elevators whenever possible.

When transferring chemicals to or from H-rooms, additional precautions should be taken. 

Do not move more chemicals than can safely be handled by one person. 

  • Transport chemicals in a bottle carrier or in secondary containment on a cart.
  • Do not overload carts.
  • Only take as many chemicals as you need for the day. Be sure to return chemicals back to the H-room at the end of the day.


Chemical Inventory Management

Chemical Environmental Management System (CEMS) is a software tool used by the University to track and maintain chemical containers found in research buildings on campus. When a chemical is received at a campus stockroom, a barcode is added to the container, the chemical information is entered into the CEMS system and the location and owner of the chemical are recorded.

Laboratory Supervisors must maintain an accurate chemical inventory by removing the chemical container from CEMS when it is empty or disposed of as waste. To do this, remove the barcode from the container and place it on the barcode collection sheet found in the lab. Either log into the CEMS website and mark the container empty, or send the barcode collection sheets to EHS Box 1914 or email [email protected] for removal. Containers that are collected as hazardous waste are removed from the system by our waste collection contractor. Laboratory Supervisors and others who manage chemical inventories can receive systems training by containing EHS at [email protected].

Researchers who need further access to CEMS, such as to view their laboratories inventory, must complete Laboratory Safety Training and Hazardous Waste Training prior to getting an active account. 


Additional information on the CEMS system, chemical inventory, storage guidelines, and transferring chemicals can be found in the Brown University Chemical Hygiene Plan and Laboratory Safety Manual.


EPA- Chemical Compatibility-Chart 

Fisher-Scientific-Chemical Compatibility ChaRT