While the use of various chemicals in experimental research is essential, it is also important to safely store and maintain them as a part of the Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) program. The properties of chemicals and their reactivity vary broadly and if chemicals are not managed, stored, and labeled properly, they can have harmful or even destructive consequences such as toxic fume production, fire or explosion, which may result in a human fatality, property damage or environmental hazards.
Therefore, an appropriate chemical label should identify the material and list the associated hazards, and users should have knowledge of how to read chemical labels and safety data sheets (SDS). Proper chemical storage must meet OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association) standards and this can prevent most chemical reactivity hazards.
Identifying Substances Used
The first (and arguably the most important) step in storing hazardous chemicals safely is to identify each substance you have onsite to gain an understanding of their properties and their hazards. Is the chemical flammable, toxic or corrosive? Is it self-reactive or does is react to sunlight? Is it incompatible with other substances? Can it negatively affect the environment or aquatic life?