We all know how important it is to take precautions when working with hazardous materials. But we may not always recognize that it’s equally important to maintain the same high level of safety when these materials are in storage.
Even when hazardous materials are out of sight in containers, they should never be out of mind. If they’re stored properly, these substances shouldn’t cause problems. But unless we’re all aware of what safe storage means, and how to protect ourselves in a storage area, we run the risk of accidents. And we can’t afford to take that risk with hazardous materials. So today we’re going to discuss the basics of safe hazardous materials storage and the precautions we should follow when we’re in those areas. We’ll also look more closely at some specific high-risk substances so that you can better understand why we store these materials as we do.
At Chemstore we will advise you on the proper locations and construction of rooms or buildings that contain these substances, including explanations of what can’t be stored with different types of hazardous materials. As you realize that every aspect of storage room design has a reason and purpose, you’ll be better able to help us see to it that those storage areas – and the substances stored in them – are kept safe.
The substances we use and store can, as you know, pose a number of different hazards if they’re not handled and used properly and safely.
Some of the hazards are physical hazards. These could include:
There are also many potential health hazards that can result from overexposure to a hazardous substance. Sometimes the hazard is minor, like a headache or mild skin rash. But other health hazards are much more serious. For instance, you could get skin burns from contact with corrosive chemicals. With some substances, too much exposure – or prolonged exposure – could cause organ damage, allergic-type reactions, cancer or, in the worst and most rare cases, death.
Sometimes the risk isn’t just to the individuals working with or near the substance in question. A major spill of a chemical that’s dangerous to health can pose dangers to many people if it gets into the water supply. If there’s a fire or explosion that releases toxic gases, they could spread out to harm people in the neighborhood.
So there are a lot of potential risks – including some very serious ones – in any hazardous materials storage area. Fortunately, there are also a lot of excellent safeguards against those risks becoming realities. Our storage areas are designed for safety and maintained for safety. That’s only good sense, and in many instances, it’s also the law.
As you know, no hazardous substance can sneak into your facility. All of them are carefully labeled and identified as hazardous. And they also have material safety data sheets (MSDS) that explain their hazards in detail, along with the measures we can take to protect ourselves from these hazards. You should, of course, always check both labels and MSDS before starting any job involving hazardous materials.
Then you should follow the precautions they contain, such as wearing protective clothing and equipment. This same precaution applies to placing materials in storage or removing them for use or transport. Container labels generally alert you to key hazards. They tell you if a substance could burn or explode, for instance. Some labels have more detailed information, and you should always check labels carefully.
When it comes to storage, the MSDS contains a lot of vital information you need to know before you can put away or remove a container that holds a hazardous substance. Here are some MSDS sections that you should always check before working in a hazardous substance storage area:
Container labels and material safety data sheets help you to identify the hazards. Our organization’s safety procedures, including those required by OSHA, help you to work safely with and around those hazards.
We’re protected from the hazards of stored substances in a variety of ways. They include:
Not all of these safety elements are your responsibility. But it’s important that you understand why storage areas are set up the way they are. They’re designed and organized for safety, and it’s up to you to help us keep them that way, and report anything you know or think might not be right.
Those that could burn at lower temperatures obviously need even more precautions than the others. For example, above-ground tanks for these liquids should be at least 3 feet apart, with some variations depending on what substance and what quantity the container holds. These tanks also have to have diking or drainage to prevent a liquid spill from getting into the ground or water supplies. Chemstore can advise you more on this with a free site visit.
This review gives you an idea of the kinds of precautions needed just to select a storage place for hazardous substances and place the substances within it. We hope it makes clear that substances can be hazardous even when they’re contained. There’s always the risk that they’ll somehow escape from those containers or be exposed to conditions that will overwhelm inadequate precautions.
So it probably won’t surprise you to know that anyone who goes into a hazardous materials storage area has to take precautions, too.
First is the precaution we’ve already covered: Read container labels so you know what hazards you could be facing. If you are going to use or handle the container or its contents, read and follow the material safety data sheet, too. It’s also important to pay close attention to any and all signs outside or inside the area. If a sign restricts entry to authorized personnel and you’re not authorized, stay out.
There’s a reason for it. If the signs warn you about fire risks:
Also, do your part to make sure that the storage area is kept neat and orderly and doesn’t add to the potential hazards. That includes keeping the aisles clear, the floors clean, and picking up trash. If the storage area holds flammable or combustible substances, it’s particularly important to keep combustible trash to a minimum and place it in covered metal containers for disposal. Those containers should be emptied, and the contents properly disposed of daily.
Pay attention to the containers themselves. If you notice holes, leaks, any sign of rust or rot, or any indication that the container is in less than perfect shape, report it immediately. If a container is missing a label or the label is so torn or faded that you can’t read it, report it immediately. Keep in mind that those containers are the only thing between their hazardous materials and you. We want to be sure they’re in top condition.
Storage rooms should have decent lighting, too, so you can see what the substances are and read the labels. If the lighting is not adequate, or if bulbs are burned out, report it immediately.
Finally, if you or anyone else in a storage area is accidentally exposed to a hazardous substance, get out immediately. The exposed person must have at least first-aid attention. If in doubt about what to do, contact your supervisor or the emergency coordinator.
This article should have given you a good picture of why our hazardous materials storage areas are located where they are and set up as they are. And, we hope you recognize that storing materials, no matter how properly and carefully, doesn’t eliminate their hazards.
When you approach or work in a storage area, you have to take all the precautions you would at your own workstation. Use the information on labels and MSDS. Keep things neat and clean. Obey the instructions on signs. Wear the right protective clothing. In other words, practice all the safety procedures you’ve learned for any work that involves hazardous substances. As you know, hazardous substances do pose hazards. But you shouldn’t have to worry about those hazards if you use the information available to protect yourself and everyone else in the vicinity of this facility.
For further information and for a free site survey contact the team today at Chemstore 061 327792.
[2006 Business & Legal Reports, Inc, http://hr.blr.com/app_repository/Training/presentations/77673_57.rtf%E2%80%8E]