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Teacher Resources

Hazardous Chemical Storage

OSHA, EPA, NFPA, and UFC Regulations and
Guidelines You Must Follow

Flinn Scientific, Inc. supports the philosophy of the Manufacturing Chemists Association which states:

"Chemicals in any form can be safely stored, handled, or used if the physical, chemical, and hazardous properties are fully understood and the necessary precautions including the use of proper safeguards and personal protective equipment, are observed."

For years, the Flinn Scientific Catalog/Reference Manual has provided science teachers across the United States with detailed information on the chemicals they use. The physical, chemical, and hazardous properties are all fully explained. However, is your school using the proper safeguards and personal protective equipment necessary to protect you, your students, and the school building?

A common problem in many school science laboratories is how and where hazardous laboratory chemicals are stored. The solutions to the proper storage of hazardous laboratory chemicals are really quite simple.

A. Store minimum quantities. The less you have-the smaller your risk.

B. Separate and isolate your most serious hazards.

Flinn Safe-Stor® Can,
Safe-Cube®, and Chem-Saf®
bags provide great secondary

Store Minimum Quantities

We urge you and your school to adopt a policy of only storing a two-year supply (or less) of your most serious hazardous chemicals. Flinn Scientific provides smaller package sizes for all of the hazardous chemicals you use. Smaller package sizes mean less risk. Smaller package sizes also mean fresher material. It's a fact that the fresher your chemicals, the better your experiments and demonstrations will work. Storing only small quantities of your most serious chemical hazards will solve many of your storage problems.

Separate and Isolate Your Most Serious Hazards

An effective way to minimize a chemical accident or "event" is to isolate your chemical hazards. Chemical compatibility and security are critical. The two types of chemical hazards with which you should be most concerned are corrosives (acids and bases) and flammable liquids. No single group of chemicals found on the entire school premises presents a greater threat to life and/or property. The improper storage of corrosives and flammable liquids is an "event" waiting to happen.

The most effective way to isolate your flammable and corrosive hazards is to store them properly in approved safety storage cabinets. Chemical safety storage cabinets isolate corrosives and flammable liquids from other incompatible chemicals, provide a higher level of security against theft and vandalism, and will contain and control the hazards should an "event" occur.

Common sense and good laboratory procedure tell us we should isolate corrosive and flammable liquids in approved safety storage cabinets. Federal and state laws, insurance companies, and other regulating agencies also dictate how hazardous chemicals must be stored.

Flinn Scientific has thoroughly reviewed all chemical storage regulations and guidelines. These regulations have been condensed into a brief easy-to-understand format. References have been provided should you wish to review the regulations in more detail. Regulations on chemical storage have been obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), The Uniform Fire Code (UFC), The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). The following is a listing of the regulations you must follow if you wish to store corrosive or flammable liquids.

Secondary Containment

Secondary containment simply means that when a chemical spill develops the spill will be contained and controlled in a secondary area (i.e., specially designed safety storage cabinet) which will reduce the risk of chemical exposure, fire, explosion, etc. Several regulatory agencies have stated that "secondary containment" must be provided and that spill control procedures be adopted for hazardous chemicals.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA 1910.1450 Pages 385-386:


Stockrooms/storerooms ... Chemicals which are highly toxic ... should be in unbreakable secondary containers."

OSHA 1910.1450 Page 387:

"A spill control policy should be developed and should include consideration of prevention, containment, cleanup and reporting."

Environmental Protection Agency, EPA 264.175:


Container storage area must have a containment system that is designed and operated in accordance with paragraph (b)."

A containment system must be designed and operated as follows: (1) a base must underlie the containers which is free of cracks or gaps and is sufficiently impervious to contain leaks, spills ...

(3) The containment system must have sufficient capacity to contain 10% of the volume of containers or the volume of the largest container whichever is greater."

Secondary containment must be provided for all corrosives and flammable liquids. Flinn safety acid and flammable storage cabinets are ideal for the prevention of accidents and spills. Every Flinn safety storage cabinet has a liquid tight bottom trough which will contain and control your most serious spills. Flinn cabinets meet the requirements described above for secondary containment.

Segregated Chemical Storage

Corrosives and flammables should never be stored together. While common sense and the knowledge of chemical reactions tell us this, regulations on segregated chemical storage are quite specific.

Uniform Fire Code. UFC 80.301 (n):

"Storage of incompatible hazardous materials shall be separated. Separation shall be accomplished by ... Storing hazardous materials in storage cabinets ... Materials which are incompatible shall not be stored within the same cabinet."

National Fire Protection Association Comments following section 4-3.1:

"Finally, it must be remembered that these cabinets are designed and constructed for flammable and combustible liquid storage only ... incompatible materials, whether liquid or solid, should not be stored in these cabinets."

Corrosives (Acids and Bases)

Corrosive chemicals in a science laboratory are usually strong acids and/or bases. Inhalation of vapors or mists can cause severe bronchial irritation. Corrosive chemicals will severely damage the skin and eyes. OSHA regulation 1910.1450, "Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories," takes many of its recommendations from the book Prudent Practices for Handling Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories which was published in 1981 by the National Research Council. The following excerpts are taken from this book.

Prudent Practices for Handling Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories, Page 38:

"Bottles of corrosive liquids should be stored in acid containers ... To ensure that mutually reactive chemicals cannot accidentally contact one another, such substances should be stored in corrosion-resistant secondary containers."

Flinn acid cabinets are constructed entirely of 1" thick, high density, 9-ply plywood-making them completely corrosion-resistant. No metal is used anywhere in the interior construction of Flinn acid cabinets. Beware of metal acid cabinets or acid cabinets which use corrosion resistant hardware. These types of cabinets, because of the acid fumes, are guaranteed to corrode over time.

Fire-The Greatest Fear

While the proper storage of corrosives is important, much more concern has been placed on how flammable liquids should be stored and the best way to reduce the risk of fire.

What is a flammable or combustible liquid? The National Fire Protection Association defines flammable and combustible liquids as follows:

National Fire Protection Association. NFPA #30:

"Flammable liquid

Class I Flash point below 100 °F (37.8 °C)

Combustible liquid

Class II Flash point above 100 °F (37.8 °C) and below 140 °F (60 °C)

Class III Flash point above 140 °F (60 °C)"

Flash point is the temperature at which a liquid or volatile solid gives off a vapor sufficient to form an ignitable mixture with the air. Chemical solvents like ethyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, acetone, and isopropyl alcohol are commonly used in school science laboratories and are all considered Class I flammable liquids.

Both the Uniform Fire Code and the National Fire Protection Association have regulations specifying when flammable liquids should be stored in an approved flammables safety storage cabinet.

Uniform Fire Code. UFC 79.202A(2):

"In group A occupancies used as classrooms or laboratories ... flammable and combustible liquids are allowed to be stored in amounts necessary for use in demonstration ... or laboratory work ... When quantities exceed 10 gallons, storage shall be in cabinets in accordance with section 79.202 (C)."

National Fire Protection Association. NFPA #30 Section 45.4.2:

"Not more than 10 gallons of Class I or Class II liquids combined shall be stored ... outside a safety storage cabinet."

If you store in excess of 10 gallons of flammable/combustible liquids, then you are required to store them in an approved flammables safety storage cabinet. All Flinn flammables cabinets meet or exceed NFPA and OSHA specifications for the storage of flammable/combustible liquids.

SciMatCo, a division of Flinn
Scientific, manufactures the
highest quality flammables
and acid cabinets.

Important Note

While the regulations and guidelines described in our article have been adopted by most states, it is very important for you to learn what state laws specifically apply to your school. The Right to Know section of our Flinn Scientific Catalog/Reference Manual lists the name, address, and phone number of the agency that is involved in these types of regulations and guidelines in your state. We encourage you to contact them directly about which regulations and guidelines apply to your school.


Does your school comply with the regulations and guidelines governing the way hazardous laboratory chemicals must be stored?

Hazardous chemicals should be stored in locked safety storage cabinets within a central chemical storage area. The issue isn't whether you can afford proper hazardous chemical storage. The real issue is whether you can afford not to give your attention to this critical storage need.

Corrosive and flammable liquids deserve special storage attention. Depend on Flinn safety storage cabinets to solve this serious problem. If you have questions or comments, please call toll free 1-800-452-1261. We will gladly help you in any way we can.

P.O. Box 219, Batavia, IL60510