Guide To Safely Storing, Moving, Or Protecting Yourself From Lab Chemicals
Chemicals are used and handled in most laboratories.
The focus of the laboratory, whether it involves basic types of acid digestions, compound production, research synthesis, and many other applications, the type or amount of different chemicals utilised may vary greatly. Unfortunately, incident and accident reports that involve the storage and use of chemicals are very common. This highlights the importance of remaining diligent when it comes to the correct way to store and handle hazardous chemicals, or issues that can arise. So, in this article we will offer a few general rules you should be following to safely store or handle chemicals in your laboratory.
Before we start discussing the details, it’s important to always consider the regulations that might include highly specific requirements for the storage and handling of chemicals stored in stockrooms or used in labs. These requirements may include the basics such as waste containers that are specific for that waste and locks on storage cabinets to requirements that are more stringent such as regulated areas with controlled access. If any of the labs you are operating is generating or using potentially hazardous materials, you must establish the regulations that apply and any of the specified requirements that these may impose.
One of the other challenges that are faced frequently is that labs tend to undergo changes over time. We should be focusing more awareness on the facilities in our labs and to implement regular review processes to maintain safety in the lab and to remain up to date.
Firstly – Using the right PPE (personal protective equipment)
Our article is mainly focused on storing chemicals safely. Yet before you get to work on reorganising your laboratory, you must ensure that your PPE is correct. At the very minimum, your PPE should include eye protection, chemical-resistant gloves, appropriate footwear (closed-toe shoes), and chemical aprons and/or lab coats.
Assess your surroundings by looking for trip hazards or workstation locations where people are busy. Make sure passageways, exits, or emergency equipment areas such as safety showers or eyewash areas are clear and not cluttered with stored materials.
Next – How To Safely Transport Chemicals
Here are a few pointers on how to safely move chemicals:
- Before transporting any chemical, the bottle needs to be secured in a secondary container that is leak-proof to safeguard against spills or breakage.
- Use sturdy carts when moving heavy, large, or more than one container at a time.
- When possible, rather transport hazardous chemicals in freight elevators to minimise the risks of an accident on a passenger elevator. When opening doors or pushing a button in an elevator, make sure your gloves are removed.
- Never leave any chemicals unattended.
Chemical Storage Rules
Storing chemicals in stockrooms or laboratories safely will require consideration and due diligence. The correct use of laboratory equipment along with containers is essential for transferring highly flammable content. Safe chemical storage involves the following:
- Label every chemical container fully. We recommend that the user or owner’s name is included along with the received date.
- Provide specific storage spaces for all your chemicals, and make sure they are returned after you have used them.
- Use ventilated cabinets for storing odoriferous or volatile toxic chemicals.
- When storing flammable liquids the storage cabinet should be approved for flammable liquids. Flammable liquids in small amounts might be permitted to store in an open room. Contact your local authority (e.g., the fire marshal or EH&S personnel) to confirm allowable limits.
- To stop vapours from emitting, make sure all your containers are secure and sealed tightly.
- You must use a refrigerator that is dedicated to the storage of chemicals. You should also label the fridge – Chemical Storage Only – No Food Allowed.
And always Avoid these actions:
- Storage of liquids, large or heavy containers on shelves that are high up or on the top of a cabinet.
- Never store bottles or containers on the ground unless you have placed them in secondary containments.
- Don’t store items at the top part of your cabinets. There should also be at least 18 inches of clearance across all the sprinkler heads to stop any interference from occurring with a fire-suppression system.
These simple guidelines will assist you on your way to a lab that is efficient, organised, and operating safely. Ignore them and you risk the safety of your business and employees. Safety should always be your first priority.