If your warehouse handles hazardous materials in any way, it is important that you know how to store them. Every safety concern for your industrial shelving, racks, and storage security will be amplified when preparing to store hazardous materials.
There are a number of ways to ensure you store these materials safely. When determining the correct storage, you should understand the nature and risks of each material, as well as the regulations governing it. This will allow you to choose the most effective and safest storage possible.
Before making any decisions on where or how to store industrial hazardous materials, perform a risk assessment. Some outdated warehouses may have hazardous materials in unsafe storage, left there because there have not been any accidents before. However, planning can ensure such accidents never take place.
Your risk assessment will be based on the types of materials, and the individual risks they pose. Then you should consider how they will be stored.
For example, if you are using an inappropriate material for shelving, there is a chance it will degrade. The type of storage is also important. If you are storing drums on straight shelves, there is a chance they could roll off.
Make sure to review regulations from authorities such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) while creating your risk assessment. Also, check local and state laws for your area.
The first point of storing any hazardous material is familiarizing yourself with labels. You and your employees should know how to identify each material with its label.
This will make it easier to move materials and products from one point of the warehouse to another, such as from receiving to long term storage. A simpler transport system may reduce the risk of accidents.
Material safety data sheets
As well as checking labels, you and your employees should know how to understand material safety data sheets (MSDS). These contain details of the material and list the potential risks it poses. This helps ensure all materials are placed in the correct location and the right type of storage.
Learn about the materials
To ensure you fully understand the risks of the materials you store, familiarize yourself with each one. This will also assist in developing your risk assessment.
Many regulations for hazardous substances address the storage of bulk hazardous materials. If you store products that contain hazardous materials, or mixtures of materials, you may not think to check them for potential hazards. Take the time to determine any risks before designing your storage plan.
Types of hazardous materials include those that are flammable, for example or have a risk of explosion. Others might release a toxic gas. Several materials are hazardous when exposed to certain conditions, such as particular temperatures, or when exposed to other materials.
Consider reactive risks
Reactive risks are of vital consideration when it comes to storage. For example, the risks of storing flammable substances may increase if you store them near to oxidizing substances.
There are specific regulations, such as those published by OSHA or the EPA, to assist you as you arrange your storage. The MSDS for each material will also list any other materials with which it is incompatible. Still, it is recommended that you understand the risks yourself.
When considering hazardous materials, it is easy to focus on obvious risks such as explosions or fire. However, there are many materials you may store that could present a health risk to you or your employees.
Certain materials can cause headaches, skin rashes, and other symptoms after contact with skin, or inhalation. Sometimes, these symptoms may only occur after prolonged exposure. Protective clothing and equipment should be accessible before employees enter your hazardous storage spaces.
Quantity of substance
The amount of any hazardous material will affect how it can be stored. This should be accounted for both in terms of container size, and the total amount of the material being stored in one area.
Each hazardous substance will have restrictions for each of these. Some materials may only be stored in enclosed spaces if they are in smaller containers, such as liquid hydrogen. The amount of a particular substance being stored may also affect factors such as the distance required between different storage areas.
Your choice of storage can help you control your quantities. For example, consider replacing large single containers with a pallet designed to hold multiple, smaller containers.
Separation of storage
Incompatible materials must be stored separately. This can mean they must be stored a certain number of feet away from each other. The precise space required may vary depending on the type of material. It can also depend on the size of the containers you are storing.
For example, if storing containers of liquid hydrogen, these must be kept 20 feet or more away from flammable materials or oxidizing gases. They must be kept 50 feet from other flammable gases.
In some cases, the required space may be lessened if there is an appropriate barrier between the areas. A fire-resistant barrier may be placed between two different storage sections, dividing one large area into smaller bays.
Sometimes, storage separation is required because of varying storage requirements. For example, two different flammable substances might require different types of extinguishers. Materials with different flashpoints, or the temperature at which they can combust, must be stored at different temperatures.
Part of your risk assessment should include the dangers of moving different types of materials. The risk should also reflect the type of container you are using, such as a drum, which may roll when dropped. Make sure to separate areas of workflow to ensure the containers are only handled within a specific part of your facility.
Procedures for storing new containers should also be put into place. Make sure there is space in your receiving area for any hazardous materials being unloaded. Otherwise, substances may be left outside in unsuitable temperatures, or direct sunlight, risking a reaction.
When storing hazardous materials, take any steps necessary to avoid accidents. Racks or shelving that have not been designed to hold the containers you use may increase the chances of an accident occurring.
The regulations for hazardous materials are very specific. Because of this, it can be much easier to buy specialized storage items than to research the specifications yourself. Finding a cabinet with a specific thickness of wood or metal, and the correct type and size of venting is much more difficult than simply purchasing a purpose-built cabinet.
Security is often a serious consideration when storing hazardous materials. Any risk that an untrained employee or intruder might access the materials should be avoided.
Provided the materials being stored do not need to be kept in a separate room or building, for reasons such as temperature control, a wire storage cage can be an excellent solution.
Wire cages can be purchased at various sizes, making them suitable for any warehouse or storage facility. You can quickly view the containers inside, allowing for easy inventory checks. The doors are lockable, preventing unauthorized access, and they can be moved to a different area of the warehouse easily.
If you need to secure a large area of your warehouse, a security gate is often the best solution. Installing a gate, rather than using separate rooms, means you do not have to worry about installing an additional fire suppression system for each section.
Gates can be purchased as heavy or light duty, depending on your needs. They can also be custom built for your space, offering a complete security barrier.
Some of the materials you may store have special requirements regarding ventilation. They may need to be close to ventilation or kept at a certain distance from it. Check these regulations before setting out shelving or racks.
Lockers and cabinets
There are a variety of closed lockers and cabinets designed to store hazardous materials. These are made of sturdy materials and can help prevent any dangerous reactions.
A locker or cabinet should be painted with the standard color coding to signify its purpose and should have clear labelling and signage. For example, a flammable materials storage cabinet will be painted yellow.
Make sure to note any regulations regarding how much of a particular material you may store. For example, the number of gallons of flammable liquid you can store in a single cabinet depends on the category classification of the liquid.
If storing materials that may not have a dangerous reaction, but may present a health hazard, a cabinet can also be a good choice. In these cases, stainless steel is preferable, as it is easy to sterilize after a spill.
The need for specialized storage is particularly crucial with specialized containers such as drums. Drums containing hazardous liquid material could be knocked over if not properly held in place.
Drum racks have shaped sections designed to hold the drums firmly in place. For vertical storage, you can purchase drum pallet racking. If your operations involve moving the drums frequently, it can be a good idea to purchase portable drum racks, as these can be moved with a forklift.
Hazardous materials in liquid form can pose a particular risk in storage, as there is a danger of leaks and spills. To prevent this, install spill pallets beneath your liquid storage containers.
The size of the container will determine the size of the pallet. It may also be affected by the type of material you are storing, and local regulations for your area or state. Drums containing 55 gallons must have a full coverage spill pallet, able to catch spills on all sides. The pallet must be able to hold at least 35% of the drum’s contents.
Storage cabinets should also have spill containment. You can purchase hazardous materials storage cabinets with secondary containment systems built in.
Some materials require additional barriers to be placed around the storage area, to prevent spills from spreading.
Strong and sturdy materials are vital for the safe storage of hazardous substances. Steel is an excellent material for racks and shelving, as it will withstand heavy containers of hazardous materials without risk of buckling or breaking. Some plastics can also be used for storage items such as spill pallets.
This is one of the benefits of purchasing purpose built hazardous material storage. Any spill pallet or warehouse racking you purchase should be able to withstand damage from the type of substance it is designed to store.
Location of storage area
Whether a material has a reactive risk or has a health risk for those who come into contact with it, you should consider the proximity of the storage area to your employees. There should be no additional danger to their health or safety.
Some materials have a specific requirement as to the distance that must be maintained between their storage and areas with concentrations of people.
For some materials, the storage location is decided by its distance from dangers such as electrical equipment. If storing a substance over a particular quantity, a separate storage room may need to be allocated. In some cases, a separate building must be constructed.
Height of storage
Some materials must be stored close to the ground, such as drums of flammable liquid. In general, ensure the height of your pallet racks comply with fire safety regulations. There should be at least 3 feet of clearance between the top of the pile and the sprinkler system.
Depending on local regulations, storage over a certain height may require a high pile storage permit. This still requires you to adhere to fire sprinkler clearance regulations.
Clear storage area
Even if you have stored all your hazardous materials correctly, there is still a health and safety risk if the storage area is not clear. Any hazards on the ground may result in trips and falls, which can then result in breakage and spills.
In a busy warehouse, it will often be necessary to keep certain pieces of equipment, or special tools, within easy reach. However, instead of leaving these out, it is better to install a modular equipment platform.
These can store the equipment you require easy access to. Depending on the type of tools or equipment needed, you should be able to keep these close to your material storage area without adding to the safety risk.
Your storage layout should allow easy ingress and egress in the result of an emergency. This means the aisles between shelving or racks should be wide enough to allow employees to exit swiftly. It should also allow emergency equipment such as fire safety equipment to be brought in.
Items such as fire extinguishers should be easy to see, and not hidden by any racks or pallets. There should also be clear signage to the nearest exit.
For guidance on the safe storage of all your warehouse products, please contact Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc at 800-589-7225 (RACK). We provide application specific storing and handling solutions and can help you ensure your facility is adhering to local safety codes, OSHA, and EPA regulations.