The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets the standards that every business must follow to ensure the safety and health of its workers. These standards serve as the basis for properly managing hazardous chemicals in the workplace, minimizing the risks of serious accidents and negative environmental impacts. Evaluate whether your hazardous chemical storage is OSHA compliant to safeguard your workforce, foster a culture of safety awareness, and potentially avoid hefty fines for non-compliance.
Understanding OSHA Standards
OSHA standards are based on best practices and the latest scientific research regarding worker safety. Therefore, maintaining a compliant workplace requires updating your practices to meet the latest guidelines.
OSHA considers the following factors when setting chemical storage standards:
- The hazard potential of chemicals used, such as toxicity, flammability, reactivity, and environmental consequences.
- Routes of exposure, like inhalation, skin contact, or accidental ingestion.
- Frequency and duration of potential exposure.
- Storage and handling conditions, including ventilation, personal protective equipment, and spill containment measures.
Identifying Hazardous Chemicals
Before addressing proper storage and handling, you must identify the hazardous chemicals in your workplace. OSHA guidelines classify hazardous chemicals into various categories, such as flammable liquids, corrosive substances, and toxic materials. Familiarizing yourself with these categories and the specific chemicals you work with will help you establish appropriate storage and handling protocols.
Flammable liquids are combustible materials that can ignite easily at specified temperatures. OSHA standards mandate storing these liquids in containers and storage cabinets designed to reduce the fire risk. Additionally, OSHA requires workplaces to implement proper grounding during the transfer of flammable liquids to prevent static electricity buildup, which is a potential ignition source.
Corrosive substances are chemicals that cause damage to living tissues, metals, and other materials upon contact. Organizations must store these substances in corrosion-resistant, sealed containers located away from materials they may react with, such as bases for acids, and vice versa. OSHA also requires that workplaces have an easily accessible emergency eyewash station and shower near areas where employees may be exposed to corrosive materials.
Toxic materials are substances that can cause harm or death when ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Clearly label these materials, store them in secure areas, and handle them using appropriate personal protective equipment based on the material’s specific risks. OSHA mandates that employers provide proper training to employees, informing them of the dangers associated with these materials and how to respond in case of exposure.
Following Proper Storage Requirements
When it comes to ensuring compliance, the key lies in meeting or exceeding the OSHA standards for the storage and management of hazardous chemicals. These requirements can vary significantly depending on the type of chemical, but generally, storage facilities must consider the following elements:
- Containers: All hazardous chemicals require storage in compatible containers that prevent leakage and contamination. These containers must also resist heat and damage, reducing the likelihood of accidents or chemical exposure.
- Placement: OSHA standards call for properly separating and segregating incompatible chemicals to avoid reactions, spills, or accidents. Ensure that flammable chemicals, for example, are kept away from ignition sources or other reactive substances.
- Environmental controls: You must maintain ideal conditions for storing each type of hazardous chemical, including temperature, humidity, and ventilation. This will help prevent chemical degradation and minimize potential hazards.
A wide variety of hazardous chemical storage containers are available to businesses, each designed to manage different types of substances. For instance, manufacturers construct paint storage rooms from flame-resistant materials. They’re also designed to limit fume emissions, further reducing fire risk.
Essential Storage Tip: Review Safety Data Sheets
OSHA requires businesses to keep a copy of the SDS for each hazardous chemical in use at their facility. The SDS provides detailed instructions on the safe handling, use, and storage of these substances, as well as emergency procedures to follow in the case of an accident or spill. Additionally, the SDS contains information about the chemical’s reactivity with other substances, its stability under different conditions, and proper disposal methods.
Obtaining and Posting SDSs
The chemical’s manufacturer or supplier provides the SDS. In case the SDS is missing or outdated, employers should contact the manufacturer or supplier immediately to obtain the most recent version.
Keep SDSs in an easily accessible location where employees can quickly refer to them in case of an emergency or when they need information about a specific chemical. The ideal location could be in the storage area, near the workstations, or in a designated safety information area that is known to all employees.
Utilizing Safety Equipment and Procedures
Compliance with OSHA standards includes ensuring that all necessary safety equipment and procedures are in place to protect workers from exposure and accidents. Here are some essential elements to consider:
- Personal protective equipment: Provide workers with the appropriate PPE, such as gloves, goggles, and respiratory protection, depending on the chemicals they handle.
- Emergency procedures: Establish clear and accessible emergency procedures that outline the steps to take in case of an accident or spill involving hazardous chemicals. This includes evacuation plans, first-aid procedures, and emergency contact information.
- Safety training: Regularly train your employees on the safe handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous chemicals.
Performing Regular Inspections and Maintenance
Regular inspections and maintenance help ensure your hazardous chemical storage complies with OSHA standards. Depending on the specific industry and chemicals involved, storage areas may require daily, weekly, quarterly, or annual inspections.
Inspections should involve a thorough check of the physical condition of storage containers, the environment around them, and adherence to SDS instructions. Maintenance tasks might include cleaning up spills, disposing of outdated chemicals, and ensuring the functionality of safety equipment like fire extinguishers and first-aid kits.
The employees assigned to perform these inspections should have proper training and knowledge of OSHA standards. They should also know the risks and hazards associated with the stored chemicals.
Quality Storage Units Help Ensure Compliance
Following OSHA guidelines is a legal obligation and a critical component of maintaining a safe work environment. By identifying the chemicals present, understanding their risks, and implementing proper storage and handling procedures, businesses can significantly reduce the likelihood of accidents and exposure.
Invest in the welfare of your workforce and the longevity of your business by working with American Hazmat Rentals. We design our chemical storage units to comply with OSHA standards, providing a safe and reliable solution for handling hazardous materials. Browse our fire-rated and non-fire-rated containers and accessories to meet the specific requirements of your materials.