Chemical Storage

Some words of caution are in order. No matter how complete your list seems or how complex the compatibility matrix appears, there is always the exception chemical, the one that falls into two (or more) groups. Beware of this and seek expert advice when you are unsure about safe storage. In closing, here are a few more guidelines for safe chemical segregation:

- Do not store chemicals alphabetically as a general group. Separate into compatible groups first.
- Do not store chemicals on high shelves or in high cabinets. A good rule is to store them at eye level or below.
- Do not store chemicals on bench tops or in hoods, except for those being used currently.
- Do not store incompatible materials one above the other on shelving in the lab. Prevent any chance of accidental mixing.
- Do separate chemicals into their organic and inorganic families and then compatible groups.
- Do provide a definite storage place for each chemical and return the chemical to that location after each use.
- Do store volatile toxics and odiferous chemicals in a ventilated cabinet.
- Do store flammable liquids in approved flammable storage cabinets or safety cans.
- Do ensure that shelving materials are appropriate and compatible with the chemicals stored on them (e.g., do not store oxidizers on wooden shelves).

Finally, for those of us in seismically active regions, there are additional precautions (and probably regulations) to address. In these areas we should have lipped shelving and secured storage units, at a minimum. Check with your local authorities for additional guidance. As always, safety first.

Comments or questions are always welcome. Contact

Vince McLeod is an American Board of Industrial Hygiene–certified industrial hygienist and the senior industrial hygienist with the University of Florida’s Environmental Health and Safety division. He has 22 years of occupational health and safety experience at the University of Florida, and he specializes in conducting exposure assessments and health hazard evaluations for the university’s 2,200-plus research laboratories.


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3. NFPA 55 Compressed Gases and Cryogenic Fluids Code, 2010 edition. National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA. 2004.