In some industries, it is necessary that your staff works with hazardous materials. Keep in mind that just because materials are hazardous, this doesn’t mean that they will actually put your staff in danger, only that, if treated improperly, they could potentially do so. This is why you need to provide the right equipment, train your staff and, most importantly, properly store these hazardous materials. The reason why we put this to the forefront is due to the fact that these storing processes matter mainly because this is the time that these chemicals are supposed to be unsupervised. Much can go wrong when there’s no one watching and here are eight tips to help you prevent a potential disaster.
1. Read the safety data sheet
The first thing you need to understand is the fact that the term “hazardous chemical” tends to be a quite broad umbrella term, used for a variety of materials, solutions and substances. Other than this, you need to keep in mind that by reading the safety data sheet, you will, most likely, already get a suggestion for how to store it safely. So, immediately after receiving the chemical (which will most likely come in its own container), read the data sheet. Most commonly, there will be a brief version on the label, which comes with all the information you need at the moment.
2. Prevent unauthorized access or use
Needless to say, hazardous materials should only be handled by both trained and authorized personnel. So, try to restrict others from any kind of access or use by those who are undertrained, underequipped or, in the worst-case scenario, just visiting your facility. You see, they need to be locked away someplace (ideally off-site) with only small amounts available on-site (necessary for that day’s or week’s tasks). This latter part will help you out immensely with unauthorized access or use.
3. Provide suitable conditions
The next vital step you need to take is to provide suitable conditions for hazardous chemicals. First of all, you need to provide them with adequate ventilation. Second, the majority of these hazardous materials are quite flammable, which is why you shouldn’t allow them to be exposed to excessive heat or sources of ignition. Other than this, you do not want to allow these chemicals to be exposed directly to the sun. The latter scenario is more a matter of transportation than storage, seeing as how the very nature of facilities where they are kept is made to protect against it.
4. Possess adequate lab equipment
Your main focus should always be end-to-end safety of the equipment in question. Think about it, you’re not there to contain the damage or postpone the inevitable. You’re there to safely handle the materials even in the most extreme of circumstances. This is why it’s so important that you have a reliable supplier of lab equipment, as well as that you do proper research before making any orders. Quality is the key in keeping both the workplace and the staff safe and this is really not the time, nor place, where you should be trying to cut corners or save money.
5. Ensure adequate segregation
There are a lot of chemicals which, also potentially hazardous, aren’t really as dangerous when kept on their own. The problem with running a lab lies in the fact that you never have just one chemical on the shelf. Now, some of these chemicals may make a particularly nasty combination. If you separate chemicals while storing them and if you separate them in the optimal strategic way, even if there’s a spill, you’ll ensure that there’s no mixing of these ingredients. One tip to help make all of this simpler, more consistent and easier to handle is to label shelves and cupboards, not just chemical containers. This way, deciding which item goes where becomes a no-brainer and the likelihood of mistake becomes minimal.
6. No liquids-above-solids organization
Frankly, this segment is, more or less, a continuation of the previous part. What it virtually does is ensure that in a case of a spill, there’s no liquids-above-solids organization. The very purpose is that it helps you avoid the contamination of materials in case of the spill. Again, in an ideal world, you would have enough storage space so that you don’t even have to consider such scenarios. The problem, nonetheless, lies in the fact that providing such conditions may cost more than any enterprise could ever afford.
7. Keep everything clean and tidy
Attention to detail is always important for safety but it appears that it takes precedence in controlled workplace environments such as a laboratory. If material is hazardous, any spill or dropping needs to be handled more than seriously.Also, if there’s something non-toxic on the floor, like an obstacle or a tiny body of water that still hasn’t been mopped up, it poses a trip or a slip risk. Either way, you need to understand that keeping everything clean and tidy further adds to your safety of storage.
8. Make sure your fridges are spark-proofed
One of the common mistakes that we simply have to warn you of is the fact that a lot of people keep hazardous chemicals in freezers in order to ensure that they’re away from fire sources. The problem, nonetheless, lies in the fact that they completely forget to check if the fridges in question are spark-proofed, to begin with. Regular fridges usually don’t pass this kind of testing or modification, whereas lab-optimized ones do. This is one more reason why you need to ensure that the fridge in question is great for you.
Naturally, the tips we gave you are mostly general pointers, seeing as how it all depends on the nature of your industry, the nature of the chemical in question and many other factors. Still, when working with something hazardous and when exposing others (your employees) to this same material, it is not only pragmatic but also ethical and moral that you invest heavily in safety. This requires resources, planning, research and effort on your part.