Laboratory - Storage of chemicals

Storage of many different chemicals in a laboratory setting is done following a few simple rules

  • Store by chemical compatibility
  • Use secondary containment
  • Store the minimum quantity needed consistent with use requirements

The sorting of diverse chemicals found in laboratories by compatibility is often a difficult task. The Safety Data Sheets may have some compatibility information, but this is frequently terse and difficult to interpret. The hazard classifications of the Global Harmonization System provides a starting point for setting up a storage compatibility program. The following table lists the GHS-drived Storage Groups.

StorageGroup Sub-DivisionComment
Section 1
Explosives Separate storage for 6 Divisions of explosives Explosive use and storage must follow rules of the local/national agencies have jurisdiction.
Compressed or Liquified Gases Flammable gases Aerosols are stored with their corresponding GHS classification.
Non-flammable gases
Toxic gases
Oxidizer gases
Flammable liquids   Local codes may apply
Flammable solids  
Self-reactive chemicals All types  
Pyrophoric liquids   Local codes may apply
Pyrophoric solids  
Self-heating substances   May require refrigeration
Water reactive substances   Releases a flammable gas
Oxidizing liquids All categories Acids
Oxidizing solids Bases (Caustics)
Organic peroxides All types  
Corrosive to metals    
Skin/eye corrosive All categories Acids
Section 2
Acute toxicity All categories  
Serious eye damage/irritation All categories  
Respiratory sensitivity All categories May require secure storage
Skin sensitizer All categories May require secure storage
Germ cell mutagenicity All categories Category 1 may require secure storage
Carcinogenicity All categories May be subject to local regulation
Reproductive toxic All categories Category 1 may require secure storage
Lactation effects All categories  
Specific target organ toxicity Both single and repeated exposure, all categories Category 1 may require secure storage
Aspiration hazard    
Aquatic Toxicity Both acute and chronic  

Chemicals in the Storage Groups in Section 1 may require dedicated safety cabinets, dedicated rooms, or possibly outside storage, depending on quantities and local ordinances. Chemicals in the Storage Groups in Section 2 may be stored together, but placed in dedicated secondary containment within that location.

Secondary containment can be a simple polyethylene tray of sufficient size to contain 100 percent of the contents of the largest container in the tray. These trays can also be used within safety cabinets to provide further segregation, if needed.

The nest method to limit the amount of chemicals in a laboratory is “just-in-time” delivery. This arrangement with a supplier uses a scheme such as “order by 10h00, deliver by 15h00”. In the absence of a just-in-time program, then ordering chemicals in the smallest size containers consistent with needs must suffice. While this may increase the cost per container, it will reduce waste disposal costs and may also make more laboratory space available for work, rather than storage.

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