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Chemical Handling & Storage

Need help? Need help? Learn how to handle chemicals safely The storage and handling of chemicals is potentially one of the most dangerous aspects of any business. As such, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 set out very clear guidelines for how this should be carried out. Whether you store a handful of cleaning products or large amounts of flammable liquids, it is imperative that COSHH principles are applied.

Specialist solutions should be used wherever chemicals are present within your workplace. COSHH cabinets and cupboards are purpose-built and include several safety features making them the best choice for storing chemical products. To be certain chemical liquids are being handled with optimum care, appropriate containers should be used any time they are worked with, decanted or moved from place to place.

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Chemistry Store: Buying Guide

Working with chemicals of any type can be extremely dangerous and has the potential to pose the following hazards:

  • Health – Without sufficient control methods anyone who comes into contact with chemicals can be at risk of illness, injury or death.

  • Premises – Inadequate storage facilities can cause chemicals to become unstable, increasing the chance of explosions or other emergency situations.

  • Environment – Poor handling practices can lead to spillages and accidental contamination of your surroundings.

By using the appropriate control processes, facilities and equipment, the possibility of any of these occurrences can be minimised.

Storing Chemicals Safely

When deciding where and how to store chemicals there are several factors that should be taken into account. First you should define a specific area where access can be controlled. It must be an appropriate distance away from where you work, but also close enough to prevent the excessive transportation of materials. Ensure that the space is well-lit and sized appropriately to safely store everything, taking into account the need to separate certain chemical types. Ventilation is also incredibly important, even when items are stored within a cabinet, as vapours can easily build up over time.

How and where you keep chemicals within your workplace is governed by strict rules. For example, the amount of flammable liquid that can be stored in one place will vary according to its flashpoint; additionally, certain chemical types must be segregated from each other. Looking at these factors should play a major role in determining what provisions you need for safe storage. Our helpful Legislation Watch article has more information on how to store chemicals safely.

When setting up the storage area pay particular attention to signage. Storage should always be clearly marked using Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) symbols so that staff are instantly aware of what can and can’t be held safely in a particular location. Information posters and notices should also be placed nearby.

Purpose-built COSHH cupboards and cabinets are the best way to ensure day to day amounts of hazardous substances are securely stored. All units of this type should be lockable – ideally with 3 point locking, constructed from flameproof material and be able to contain leaks and spills amounting to at least 110% of the largest vessel kept within.

Keeping storage areas clean and tidy is vital to their ongoing safety. Any waste packaging such as cardboard boxes or plastic wrap should be disposed of away from the storage site to minimise the risk of fire. Ensure you have adequate spill control resources such as absorbent materials and drain covers nearby to deal with spills and leaks.

Safe Handling of Chemicals

Containers for moving or working with small amounts of chemical liquids should be expressly constructed for their intended purpose. Never reuse a bottle or canister that was designed to be disposable and keep a different container for each chemical that will be transported to prevent cross-contamination. Particular care should be taken to ensure flammable liquids are transported in suitable vessels.

Finally, once you have your storage and handling areas organised be sure to conduct weekly checks on not just the equipment, but also how staff are storing chemicals to ensure best practice is being observed.


I don’t work in the chemicals industry, am I likely to have any items that would be covered by COSHH regulations?

Very, very few businesses get by these days without using chemicals of some sort. As well as more the obvious industries such as farming or painting and decorating, chemicals can be found everywhere from warehouses and car parks to shops and schools. Depending on your situation, one of the most likely types of chemical you will be dealing with on a regular basis is cleaning products. Even if you only use a small amount they should be kept locked away and stored in trays which will catch any leaks. You will also need to observe rules regarding storing incompatible chemicals together and take extra caution over flammable items. Small scale cabinets are perfect for this.

How do I assess what storage I need for the chemicals I have?

Suppliers of chemicals or chemical products will be able to provide you with a safety data sheet for every item you purchase. Use this to decide what storage provision you need. For many, a COSHH cabinet or cabinets will be enough; for larger amounts, outside storage may also be required. If you use and store chemicals in drums or cylinders, specific solutions are available for their handling to minimise any associated risks. If you require further assistance in determining exactly what you need, our helpful “Ask the Expert” service can offer advice and guidance.

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