Chemical Storage


hazard communication poster
A hazard communication poster should be easily visible in the chemical storage area, to facilitate proper labeling and segregation of incompatible materials.
properly grounded with bonding wires
Drums containing explosive materials should be properly grounded with bonding wires.

Proper chemical storage is a key component in shop safety. Proper chemical storage involves a current inventory list, accurate labeling, segregation of incompatible materials, and suitable containers and storage facilities. In addition, care must be taken to observe the special handling and storage requirements established by OSHA, state, and/or local codes for flammable and combustible materials.

Regardless of the storage capacity of a flammable liquid storage cabinet, OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.106(d)(3)(i) limits the quantity of Class I or Class II liquids to not more than 60 gallons per cabinet. However, the same cabinet can store up to 120 gallons of Class III liquids.

Class I liquids have a flashpoint below 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C). Class I liquids are further divided into 3 classes: IA, IB, and IC. Class IA liquids have flashpoints below 73F (22.8C) and boiling points below 100F. Class IB includes liquids with flashpoints below 73F and boiling points at or above 100F. Class IC liquids have flashpoints at or above 73F and below 100F. Class II liquids have a flashpoint at or above 100F and below 140F (60C). Class III liquids include those with flashpoints at or above 140F (60C). Class III liquids are subdivided into two classes. Class IIIA liquids have a flashpoint at or above 140F and below 200F (93.3C). Class IIIB liquids have a flashpoint at or above 200F. For storage purposes, the Class III liquids indicated above means only Class IIIA liquids.

Best Management Practices & Pollution Prevention

Oil containers
Oil containers properly stored with secondary containment.

  1. Store chemicals in cabinets and on shelving provided for such storage. Avoid storing chemicals on top of cabinets, and never store any material within 18 inches of the ceiling in sprinklered areas. Store flammable materials in a Flammable Storage Cabinet or specially designed and constructed solvent storage room. Label all chemical containers appropriately as per OSHA’s hazard communication standard (full name, date purchased or made, and hazard warning), and retain all appropriate DOT hazard warning labels.
  2. Do not store chemicals alphabetically as a general group. This may result in incompatible materials appearing together on a shelf. Separate chemicals into related and compatible groups, i.e. solvents should be stored together, acids should be stored together, etc. Separation of chemical groups can be by different shelves within the same cabinet if spill protection is provided. Sort and store chemicals according to a coding system. Since containers can and do get moved and not replaced in the proper area a customized coding system may be needed. The following is an example using color coding, however other methods will work.
    • Make sure that each container's label is marked with the appropriate color.
    • Blue: Health Hazard. Toxic if inhaled, injected or absorbed through the skin. Store in secure area.
    • Green: General chemical storage. Presents no more than moderate hazard.
    • Red: Flammable. Store only in cabinets approved for flammable materials.
    • White: Corrosive. May harm skin, eyes, mucous membranes. Store away from red-, yellow- and blue-coded reagents. Separate acids and bases. Separate oxidizer acids (nitric and perchloric) from organic acids (formic, acetic, etc.).
    • Yellow: Reactive and oxidizing reagents. May react violently with air, water or other substances. Store away from flammable and combustible materials.
  3. Chemical storage areas
    • Provide adequate ventilation (about 6 room air changes per hour).
    • Install fire detectors such as smoke or temperature alarms.
    • Make sure shelves are strong and secure. Inspect them annually and replace and repair as needed.
    • Store containers no more than 2 deep with large containers in back. Maintain enough space between containers so that you can remove one without knocking others over.
    • Store large and heavy containers on lower shelves.
    • Store hazardous chemicals below eye level.
    • Provide and require the use of appropriate personal protective equipment such as gloves, protective eyewear, shoes and perhaps a splash apron.
    • Containers and cabinets that hold flammable or combustible materials should be grounded to protect from static related fires. Chemical storage rooms should be equipped with adequate grounding equipment to secure containers stored within. Bonding wires, used while transferring flammable and combustible materials from one container to another should also be provided. Spark proof (brass) valves, bung openers, etc. should be provided. Plastic funnels, etc. should not be permitted, as they create an additional fire hazard due to static build-up. For more information see the fire protection section.
  4. Record the following data on the label of a newly received chemical: (1) the full level, (2) the date received Seal container caps with vinyl electrician's tape to avoid evaporation and leaks.
  5. Examine chemical containers annually. Secure loose labels with clear packing tape and dispose of containers whose contents cannot be identified.
  6. Maintain an inventory either hard copy or electronically that is updated at least annually. Some state air permits require a monthly inventory reconciliation.
  7. Recommend shelf life. Purchase only what you can use in 2 years. This will minimize the need to dispose of unused, out-of-date chemicals. Also see Inventory Management section.

For access to vendors who may supply alternative materials and equipment, see the PNEAC Vendor Directory.

Environmental Regulations

Materials Handling and Storage Standard 29CFR 1910.101, 1910.106 and 1910.176

Health & Safety

Safe Chemical Storage
Safe Chemical Storage


  • Limit access to chemical storage areas to authorized personnel only.
  • Keep chemical storage cabinets closed and locked when not in use.

Perhaps the single most important rule of chemical storage is to segregate incompatible chemicals that, if accidentally mixed, could cause fire, explosion, or the generation of toxic gases. Hazardous chemical reactions can occur from improper storage when incompatible materials mix because of:

  • Accidental breakage
  • Container failure
  • Fires and earthquakes
  • Mixing of gases or vapors from poorly closed containers
  • Mistakenly storing incompatibles together because of improperly labeled containers