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The safe and secure storage of chemicals is a core component of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) necessary for a chemical safety and security program. If the relevant data safety sheets are available, then the Chemical Storage Matrix can be applied to development of an SOP before the receipt of all hazardous chemicals. A Chemical Storage SOP includes four basic components:
- Storage procedure and conditions based on intrinsic characteristics of the chemicals;
- Segregation and security strategy;
- Process for labeling of the chemicals to ensure proper storage; and
- Inventory process
This four-part approach to chemical management will provide laboratory personnel with a safe environment, laboratory managers with a maximally utilized inventory, and emergency responders with the critical information needed to respond appropriately if there is an incident. An example of a Chemical Storage Matrix and how it can be used is presented in Chapter 5.
Most institutions that use chemicals have a selection of storage areas for chemicals or substances that pose risks. Locations include ventilated and nonventilated storage as well as ambient, refrigerated, and freezer storage. Explosion-proof equipment for any volatile organic compounds stored in refrigerators or freezers is also important. An important component of the Chemical Storage SOP is the specification of the type of storage that provides maximum safety and security for each chemical (see Table 3-1 for options and considerations). Chemical laboratories that are located in conflict regions or in areas that are densely populated or have high crime rates or that handle large quantities of chemicals of concern or dual-use chemicals may choose to adopt elevated or high security measures (see A Guide to Prudent Chemical Management, pp. 59-70 and Appendix E). Such measures may include high-security locks, access control systems, biometric verification, intrusion alarm systems, closed-circuit television cameras, an inventory system, intervention zones, and an overall security plan. Facilities in highly urbanized areas should also strictly comply with government regulations (e.g., building codes).
Before developing an SOP, the laboratory worker should have an accurate inventory of the available storage spaces at the institution and a thorough understanding of the internal and external guidelines and regulations that apply to the facility.
In the event of a power outage, vulnerable items should be transferred from cold rooms and refrigerators that have lost power to equipment that may be powered by emergency generators. Refrigerators and freezers may maintain their temperature for several hours if they are not opened.
TABLE 3-1 Primary Storage Requirements
|Storage Options and Considerations||Chemical Characteristics|
|Ventilated storage cabinets
(Typically the default storage location and of a size that allows enough space to segregate potentially cross-reactive compounds. See Secondary Storage Requirements.)
Toxicity, volatility, odor
|Flammable storage cabinets
(Generally non-ventilated. Fire codes may govern quantities or require fire suppression.)
|Desiccant storage and inert atmosphere storage||Air and/or water-sensitive chemicals|
|Below ambient temperature storage: refrigerator or freezer||Stability with temperature|
|Designated areas and protocols for cylinder storage||Compressed gases|
After establishing the types of available storage locations, the worker will determine the secondary storage requirement. To this end, the worker must determine whether chemical segregation, such as oxidants and reductants or acids and bases, and chemical security with limited access and monitoring is needed. Certain chemicals may be incompatible in the same space (e.g., acids and bases), require tight security and monitoring (e.g., chemicals that could be used to synthesize illegal drugs or chemical weapons or their precursors), or are thermally unstable and therefore require interlocks and alarms, so secondary storage needs should be determined. The storage of chemicals and chemical equipment is discussed in detail in Chapter 8, Section 5 of the 2010 toolkit reference guide. Together, the primary and secondary storage requirements determine the number and types of storage areas needed at the facility.
After the Chemical Storage Matrix is established, the worker will develop the procedure for labeling chemicals to ensure that they are used as intended and returned to their proper storage locations, which assists in protecting laboratory personnel. Proper labeling clarifies the appropriate storage location for a chemical with multiple hazards (e.g., acetic acid is both an acid and a flammable substance; many highly toxic chemicals are also flammable) as well as the maximum allowable quantities of materials per regulatory requirements (e.g., building codes, fire protection codes). In addition, labels should provide the chemical owner name and date of receipt.
When there is clear labeling from the manufacturer, additional labeling can be as simple as a color code that denotes the appropriate storage location, which will also be labeled to match the color codes for the appropriate chemicals. Many laboratories define a standard or default location for chemicals (often ventilated, room temperature). In this case, the worker will develop a color-coding system for chemicals that are not stored in this default location: flammable, highly toxic compounds, chemicals of concern (COCs) or dual-use chemicals, acids and bases, and compounds requiring refrigeration with safe explosion-proof equipment or other cold storage.
A chemical storage program should maintain an accurate inventory of chemicals, which will apprise users of the hazards in the space and is necessary for emergency responders (e.g., for fire, chemical release, potential explosions) to take the appropriate action(s). An accurate inventory also avoids the issues associated with re-ordering chemicals already in possession by the laboratory, that is, strains on storage capacity, waste, and unnecessary expenditures. Inventories can be recorded in different formats, for example, paper, electronic spreadsheet, or commercial software. Regardless of the format, the SOP should include a process to ensure that the inventory is up-to-date and backed up. For example, if new chemicals are brought to the laboratory each week, then inventories should be reconciled every six months. In contrast, for laboratories whose inventory is more static, annual review is sufficient. The inventory process could also be used to identify expired, degraded, or unneeded chemicals for proper disposal.
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