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Chemical Storage and Transportation

General Considerations for Chemical Storage

Carefully read the label before storing a hazardous chemical. The SDS will also provide any special storage information and incompatibilities.


Do not store unsegregated chemicals in alphabetical order or incompatible chemicals in close proximity to each other. The amount of space that can be placed between different chemical classes depends on the amount of storage area available in the lab suite. Do not segregate chemical classes into separate rooms unless they will only be used in that room. Segregation that disrupts normal work flow or requires more frequent transport of chemicals between labs will increase the probability of a chemical spill. Use common sense in planning chemical storage areas.

Store dry reagents, liquids reagents and solutions and compressed gases in separate areas. Within each of these chemical forms segregate into hazard classes.

Segregate dry reagents as follows:

  • oxidizing solids
  • flammable solids
  • water reactive solids
  • all others solids

Segregate liquid reagents and solutions as follows:

  • acid liquids
  • caustic liquids
  • oxidizing liquids
  • perchloric acid solutions
  • flammable or combustible liquids
  • all other liquids

Segregate compressed gases as follows:

  • toxic gases
  • flammable gases
  • oxidizing and inert gases

Once separated into hazard classes, chemicals may be stored alphabetically.

Use approved storage containers and safety cans for flammable liquids. Use spill trays under containers of strong corrosive reagents. Do not store liquids above eye level.

Dispose of old chemicals promptly. See waste disposal section of this manual.

Ensure that all containers are properly labeled. For more information on chemical storage, contact your supervisor, instructor, or EHRS.

Chemical Storage Outside the Lab

All storage cabinets located in hallways must be placarded with the name of the owner and also with identification of the cabinets contents. This information is critical for emergency personnel who may respond in the evening The principal investigator must complete a Hallway Storage Sign Form (Appendix J) for each cabinet located in a hallway.

Flammable and Combustible Liquid Storage

The storage of flammable and combustible liquids in a laboratory, shop, or building area must be kept to the minimum needed for research and operations. Containers one gallon and larger of flammable liquids  must be stored in a flammable-liquids storage cabinet. Flammable-liquids storage cabinets are not intended for the storage of highly toxic materials, acids, bases, compressed gases or pyrolytic chemicals.

Flammable Liquids Storage in a Cabinet

  1. Flammable liquids storage cabinets must meet the guidelines set forth in this document.
  2. All chemical storage in cabinets must be compatible.

Flammable Liquids Storage in a refrigerator

Flammable liquids should not be stored in a refrigerators unless it is UL approved for flammable liquid storage. Storage of flammable liquids in household grade refrigerators is a fire hazard. Household grade refrigerators should be labeled: "No food or flammable liquid storage".

Chemical Stability

Stability refers to the susceptibility of the chemical to dangerous decomposition. Ethers, and olefins form peroxides on exposure to air and light. Since these chemicals are packaged in an air atmosphere, peroxides can form even though the containers have not been opened. Write the date received and date opened on all containers of ether.

Unless an inhibitor was added by the manufacturer, closed containers of ether should be discarded after 1 year.

Open containers of ether should be discarded within 6 months of opening. In the Department of Chemistry, refilled ether cans should be so labeled.

The label and SDS will indicate if a chemical is unstable.

The following are examples of materials that may form explosive peroxides:

diethylene glycol
ethyl ether
isopropyl ether
vinyl ether
diethyl ether
dimethyl ether
divinyl acetylene
methyl acetylene
vinylidene chloride
ethylene glycoldimethylether (glyme)

For additional information on chemical stability, contact your supervisor, instructor or EHRS.

Shock Sensitive Chemicals

Shock sensitive refers to the susceptibility of the chemical to rapidly decompose or explode when struck, vibrated or otherwise agitated.

Some chemicals become increasingly shock sensitive with age. Write the date received and date opened on all containers of shock sensitive chemicals. Unless an inhibitor was added by the manufacturer, closed containers of shock sensitive materials should be discarded after 1 year. Open containers of shock sensitive materials should be discarded within 6 months of opening.

The label and SDS will indicate if a chemical is shock sensitive. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment when handling shock sensitive chemicals.

Table 1 lists materials that can be shock sensitive.

Table 1 Shock Sensitive Chemicals*

acetylides of heavy metals
ammonium perchlorate
copper acetylide
dipicryl sulfone
fulminate of silver
hyrazoic acid
lead salts
mercury tartrate
nitrated polyhydric alcohol
organic amine nitrates
potassium nitroaminotetrazole
syphnic acid
aluminum ophorite explosive
ammonium picrate
cyanuric triazide
fulminating gold
guanyl nitrosamino guanyltetrazene
lead azide
lead styphnate
nitrogen trichloride
organic nitramines
picric acid
silver acetylide
sodium amatol
urea nitrate
ammonium salt lattice
erythritol tetranitrates
fulminating mercury
guanyl nitrosamino guanylidene hydrazine
lead mannite
magnesium ophorite
nitrogen tri-iodide
organic peroxides
picryl chloride
silver azide
sodium dinitro-ortho-cresolate
trinitrobenzoic acid
butyl tetryl
dinitrophenyl hydrazine
explosive mixtures
fulminating platinum
lead mononitro-resorcinate
mannitol hexanitrate
nitrated carbohydrate
nitronium perchlorate
picramic acid
picryl fluoride
silver styphnate
sodium nitrate-potassium explosive mixtures
ammonium nitrate
calcium nitrate
fulminate of mercury compounds
gelatinized nitrocellulose
heavy metal azides
hydrazinium nitrate
lead picrate
mercury oxalate
nitrated glucoside
polynitro aliphatic compounds
silver tetrazene
sodium picramate

* This list is not all inclusive. Review the material safety data sheet for reactivity information concerning the chemicals you use.

Designated Areas

All locations within the laboratory where acutely toxic, carcinogenic, or reproductive hazards are stored should be demarcated with designated area caution tape. Preprinted tape is available from EHRS (see Appendix G), the Cell Center or the Chemistry stockroom or the lab worker may write designated area on yellow tape and use that. Storage areas should be segregated from other chemical storage as space permits. Do not segregate chemicals into separate rooms. This will increase the need to transport the chemical and increase the risk of a spill.

Compressed Gases

Carefully read the label before using or storing compressed gas. The SDS will provide any special hazard information. Always use the minimum size cylinder required to perform the work.

Cylinders of compressed gases must be handled as high energy sources. When storing or moving a cylinder, have the cap securely in place to protect the stem. Use suitable racks, straps, chains or stands to support cylinders. Compressed gas cylinders pose a crush hazard to hands and feet.

Do not expose cylinders to temperature extremes.

Do not store cylinders or lecture bottles with the regulator in place. If the regulator fails, the entire contents of the gas cylinder may be discharged.

Always use the correct regulator. Do not use a regulator adapter. Oil or grease on the high pressure side of an oxygen cylinder can cause an explosion. Do not lubricate an oxygen regulator.

Cylinders of toxic, flammable or reactive gases should be stored and used in a fume hood or with local ventilation.

Never bleed a cylinder completely empty. Leave a slight pressure to keep contaminants out.

Always wear safety glasses when handling compressed gases.

For more information, contact your supervisor, instructor, or EHRS.

Flammable Gas Cylinders

The storage of flammable gas cylinders is limited to two (2) type 1 (10" x 50") cylinders per 500 square feet of unsprinklered laboratory space.

Liquefied flammable gas containers should be limited to two (2) 9" x 30" cylinders per 500 square feet of unsprinklered laboratory space or three (3) 9" x 30" cylinders per 500 square feet of sprinkled laboratory space.

Transportation of Hazardous Chemicals

The transportation of hazardous chemicals in laboratory buildings provides the greatest potential for chemical exposure to the building occupants. Spills occurring outside storerooms and laboratories may lead to hazardous concentrations of vapors and gases being distributed throughout the building.  Always use a carrier when transporting reagent containers by hand.

The following guidelines should be observed when transporting chemicals outside the laboratory:

  1. Elevators
    1. Freight elevators shall be used where available to transport hazardous materials. Under no circumstances are passenger elevators to be used for the transportation of hazardous materials if freight elevators are available.
  2. Flammable Liquids
    1. Flammable liquids shall be transported in rugged pressure-resistant safety cans.
    2. Original containers of flammable liquids shall be placed in an outside container or acid-carrying bucket.
    3. No more than 5 gallons of flammable liquids in glass containers shall be transported on the freight elevator unless the original shipping carton (box) is used and the materials are on an appropriate cart.
  3. Corrosives or Oxidizing Materials
    1. Original glass shipping containers holding liquid acids and bases must be placed in an outside container or acid-carrying bucket.
    2. Incompatible chemicals, for example chromic acid (oxidizing acid) and ethyl acetate (flammable liquid), should not be transported on the same cart unless they are in original shipping cartons and physically separated.
  4. Water Reactive Chemicals
    1. Wherever possible, use the original outside shipping containers (packaging) when transporting water reactive chemicals.
    2. Once opened, water reactive chemicals must be placed in a rigid outside container or acid carrying bucket for transporting.
  5. Pyrophoric (spontaneously igniting) Substances
    1. Whenever possible, the original outside shipping container (packaging) must be used to transport pyrophoric substances.
    2. Once opened, pyrophoric substances must be placed in a rigid outside container or acid carrying bucket for transporting.
  6. Acutely Toxic Compounds (See list Appendix B)
    1. Whenever possible, the original outside shipping container (packaging) must be used to transport acutely toxic compounds.
    2. Once opened, acutely toxic compounds must be placed in a rigid outside container or acid carrying bucket for transporting.
  7. General
    1. Chemicals, substances and research materials must be clearly labeled with the correct chemical name when transported. Hand-written labels are acceptable; chemical formulas and structural formulas are not acceptable (except for small quantities of compounds synthesized in the laboratory).
    2. Carts used for chemical transport must have sides, on each shelf, that are high enough to retain the containers. Cart wheels must be large enough to prevent the carts from being caught in floor cracks, and door and elevator thresholds.
    3. Personnel transporting chemicals must wear one disposable glove and safety glasses. Touching door handles, elevator buttons, and other surfaces outside of the lab must be done only with an ungloved hand.

Questions concerning hazardous chemicals should be addressed to the Office of Environmental Health and Radiation Safety at 215-898-4453.

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