Chemical Warehousing: What We Need to Know

When the Beirut warehouse blew up in early August, the world got an unfortunate taste of why safe chemical warehousing is so important. The Lebanese warehouse stored 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, commonly used in both fertilizer and bombs. It had been in storage for at least four years in allegedly unsafe conditions. The tragic explosion cost more than 150 lives, flattened a huge swath of the city, and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

It’s an understatement to say that chemical storage is a different beast than e-commerce storage. These dangerous goods are flammable liquids or gasses, and other hazardous materials. They could be a physical hazard, like hazardous chemicals or gasses that are combustible or explosive, or they could be a health hazard, potentially causing acute or chronic health problems. Health hazards might include irritants, corrosive materials, oxidizers, or carcinogens. These could damage parts of a person’s body, including internal organs. And as seen with Beirut, improper storage can result in widespread death.

Understanding how to properly store hazardous chemicals is essential to both human safety, building safety, and environmental safety.

Proper chemical storage

In the US today, to help with handling and chemical storage the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires the manufacturer, importer or distributor to provide SDS sheets, also known as a safety data sheet. The SDS shares handling, transporting, and safe storage information. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK has legal requirements to store chemicals as well.

A chemical storage facility needs to take precautions and understand how to handle and store each type of chemical, but also understand the relationships between the various chemicals. Hazardous chemicals can react with each other. Storing only the chemicals needed for short term use can help minimize dangers, as can inspections of chemical storage areas on a regular basis, to ensure no leakage, expired chemicals or other issues.

Post time: Jun-24-2022