Storing hazardous substances safely is an important part of protecting you and your workers. This includes storing only what you need, ensuring that incompatible substances are not stored together, and that decanted substances are stored in the right type of container and correctly labelled.
Where and how you store hazardous substances is also important, and this will depend on the class of substance and the amount you have. Small amounts may be able to be kept in metal cabinets, while large amounts may need to be kept in a separate building. You may also need to keep them a certain distance away from other premises or public places.
Keep the amount of hazardous substances you store to a minimum. This will make it easier to manage what you have and may reduce your compliance needs and costs. Keep lids on containers to keep vapours inside. This keeps vapours out of the air, and reduces the chance of spills.
You must also prepare for spills or emergencies involving hazardous substances that could happen at your workplace. Read more about emergency planning.
Depending on the types and amounts of hazardous substances you have, you may need signs to warn people that hazardous substances are present. You can read more about signs.
Your substances must also be correctly, and legibly, labelled. Read more about labelling.
First look at the safety data sheet. These are mandatory for each hazardous substance you use, store or handle at your workplace and are to be provided by the manufacturer or supplier. The safety data sheet will tell you how to store the substance and which other substances and materials it should be kept away from. You can also enter the substance into the hazardous substances calculator(external link), or there is general guidance in Your Practical Guide to Working with Hazardous Substances(external link).
Smaller amounts of flammable substances can be stored in an approved metal cabinet (ask your safety supplier for help). Very large amounts, or particular types of substances, may need to be kept in a dangerous goods store or separate building. Seek specialist advice to find out what you may need to do in these situations.
Some types of substances have special rules. For example, flammable substances may release vapour that can cause an explosion or fire if accidentally ignited. In the workplace you must remove ignition sources such as flames, sparks and heat where flammable substances are used and stored. You also need to provide adequate ventilation to prevent a build-up of vapours.
If you have flammable, oxidising, toxic or corrosive substances at your workplace above certain quantities you may need a location compliance certificate to certify that these substances are being stored safely, according to the rules. The hazardous substances calculator(external link) will let you know whether you need a location compliance certificate.
Not all hazardous substances can be stored together safely. Different types of substances can cause a fire or explosion if they come into contact with each other. Incompatible substances must be stored separately to prevent them mixing in the event of a leak or spill.
Try and keep your hazardous substances in the containers you bought them in. These containers will be safe, compatible with the product and correctly labelled. But there are times when you will want to decant hazardous substances from their original containers into smaller ones for ease of use, or to mix substances in process containers before using them. While these may seem like simple tasks, they come with inherent risks. Again, the safety data sheet will help guide you.
Containers holding hazardous substances must be in sound condition. They must be made of material suitable for safely containing the hazardous substances at the temperatures they will be used, and for as long as the substances will be contained. It is important that containers used for hazardous substances do not usually contain food or beverages, or could be mistaken as such.
Read more about the labelling requirements when you decant or transfer hazardous substances.
Some substances are so hazardous they are restricted from use by anyone other than a certified handler. You can read more about when you will need a certified handler.
However, substances that no longer have certified handler requirements still need to be kept away from those people not trained to work with them. Only workers permitted by the business or undertaking will be allowed to access these substances.
Use the hazardous substances calculator(external link) to find out any restrictions that apply to your substances.
The hazardous substances calculator(external link) will help you work out what requirements apply to your substances.
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