Solid, Gas & Liquid Chemical Storage Cabinets in Laboratories

Both natural and manufactured chemicals are a factor of everyday life -- whether we think about them or not. But if your business uses or manages any amount of industrial chemicals, it’s likely you're constantly thinking about how to store them safely. 

For any professional working with these kinds of materials, understanding how to organize a chemical storage room or cabinet is necessary for maintaining a safe work environment. 

What Are The Dangers Of Improperly Stored Chemicals? 

According to the Massachusetts Indoor Air Quality Program, when chemicals aren’t stored correctly, they present severe fire and chemical off-gassing dangers. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that chemicals in gas, liquid, or solid states can be dangerous. Chemical hazards can affect the body (for example, carcinogens or materials that affect the lungs) or physical space (flammable, combustible, explosive, or reactive materials). 

What is a Requirement for Storing Chemicals?

According to the State of Oregon OSHA, “Safe storage of chemicals begins with the identification of chemicals to be stored and their hazards.” 

Federal regulation requires that all employees understand which chemicals are on-site with information handy for their reference. OSHA's exhaustive Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is designed “to ensure that information about chemical and toxic substance hazards in the workplace and associated protective measures is disseminated to workers.”

Properly labeling chemicals is another fundamental aspect of safe lab storage.

The University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus recommends keeping the following categories of chemicals separated to avoid “unwanted chemical reactions”: 

  • Flammable liquids
  • Corrosives (acids separate from bases)
  • Oxidizers
  • Solid reagents
  • Water-reactive reagents

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What Is A Chemical Storage Lab Cabinet?

Chemical storage cabinets are specialized lab storage containers specifically designed to house various kinds of chemicals safely.

Depending on the kinds of materials you need to store, you may need different types of chemical storage cabinets. For instance, you may only deal with corrosive chemical storage, which requires different storage solutions than flammable chemicals. 

Take the Georgia Institute of Technology labs as an example. Their labs use both flammable storage cabinets and corrosive storage cabinets, among other safe storage containers.

The University of California at Berkeley Office of Environment, Health & Safety notes that it is essential to “not store anything but flammable or combustible liquids in these cabinets.” 

The CDC recommends keeping each chemical in a dedicated cabinet sorted by type, as follows: 

  • Store acids in a cabinet dedicated to acid. Nitric acid is to be stored alone unless a cabinet provides a separate compartment for nitric acid storage.
  • Store chemicals that are highly toxic in a dedicated, lockable cabinet for poisons labeled with a highly visible sign.
  • Store volatile and odoriferous chemicals in a cabinet that has ventilation.
  • Store flammables in flammable liquid approved storage cabinets.
  • Store water-sensitive chemicals in a water-tight cabinet located in a cool, dry location segregated from all other chemicals.

Where Do I Put a Chemical Storage Cabinet? 

The EPA is clear about practices in their facilities, which may serve you in deciding how you place your chemical storage units. 

The EPA requires that any chemical containers (including chemical storage cabinets) must “conform to NFPA 45 or the requirements contained in the local building and fire prevention codes.”

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a global non-profit organization that is self-funded and devoted to eliminating loss due to fire. The association has more than 300 codes relating to this effort. NFPA 45 is a standard that applies to laboratory buildings, units, and work areas, located above or below grade where NFPA 704 defined chemicals are handled or stored.

For guidance on the safe and correct placement of cabinets, it is best to consult your local building and fire codes. 

As general guidance, the EPA requires that “inside storage areas for hazardous chemicals or flammable liquids shall be separated from adjacent spaces by at least 2-hour fire-resistive construction.” Further, they specifically indicate that your storage must prevent the mixing of incompatible chemicals.

For added safety, the CDC recommends securing chemical storage shelving to the wall or floor, 

ventilating storage areas adequately, and using lockable chemical storage cabinets. 

What Is The Best Environment For Storing Chemicals? 

The CDC specifies that stored chemicals should “not be exposed to direct heat or sunlight, or highly variable temperatures.” 

Compressed gas cylinders should be stored “in cool, dry, well-ventilated areas away from incompatible materials and ignition sources,” where temperatures will not drop below 50 °F or rise higher than 125 °F. 



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