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How To Store Chemicals & Hazardous Substances

At some point, most workplaces across all industries will have to deal with substances classed as hazardous and will need to meet a host of legal and environmental obligations.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) is the key piece of legislation that governs how employers must protect their employees and anyone else that could be at risk from exposure to hazardous substances. Some substances also have other complementary legislation that applies to them such as chemicals, which come under The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) and the recently introduced Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulations.

Depending on these individual hazards, it may also be necessary to store chemicals securely in locked cabinets and some substances might have specific temperature or ventilation requirements. In addition, certain chemicals need to be stored in isolation from other substances, such as solids and liquids, flammables and non-flammables as well as acids and alkalis.

Any explosive materials, such as solvents, varnishes and flammable gases, are separate and fall under The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR). These requirements are similar to COSHH and make employers responsible for understanding the fire and explosion risks of substances in their workplace. They then need to implement control measures to minimise these risks and reduce the effects of any incidents that occur.

Emergency procedures should be introduced and where relevant, employees may need specific training. In some cases, it may also be necessary to identify zones within a workplace that are particularly at risk of explosions and eliminate potential ignition sources in these areas.

There are also specific regulations for workplaces that store oil under The Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001 or The Water Environment (Oil Storage) (Scotland) Regulations 2006.

Both sets of regulations generally affect workplaces that store at least 200 litres, above ground, in tanks, drums and mobile bowsers and the emphasis generally focuses on the pollution risks that oil presents.

Any organisations storing these types of substances also need a plan in place to control and contain any spillages and, depending on the products, it may be necessary to have specialist PPE or cleaning equipment on hand. Once the cleanup is finished, it is important to store and dispose of the waste in a safe manner.

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