How to Store Hazardous Materials…Correctly

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Johnnie was a chemist. Johnnie is no more. What he thought was H₂O was H₂SO₄ (Sulphuric acid)*.

Storing hazardous materials is no joke, but this little rhyme perfectly illustrates the importance of getting it right. If you’re responsible for safely storing flammable or otherwise dangerous substances, remember Johnnie’s cautionary tale and make sure you do it properly.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the right products for the job:

Storing flammable items

The obvious danger of flammable items is that they might catch fire. In order to reduce this risk, keep flammable materials away from flames and anything that might spark. That means no cigarette breaks surrounded by oily rags and no using power tools next to the flammable waste bin.

Apart from the danger of naked flames, remember that some substances don’t get along and the results could be explosive. Keep incompatible materials well away from one another and certainly don’t store them in the same place.

Now you’re ready to think about your storage container. Keep flammable materials in a secure container designed specifically for the purpose. It should be made of a non-flammable material, steel being a great choice, and the whole thing kept isolated.

Use very clear labels to highlight where flammable materials are stored and list the correct procedures for using them.

Storing solvents

Solvents, found in products such as paint removers, adhesives and pesticides, can be very dangerous to people who come in contact with them. If solvents get onto your skin they can cause burns or irritation and the fumes can give you headaches and damage your lungs. Even worse, if you somehow swallow a solvent…remember Johnnie?

Needless to say it is essential that you store and use your solvents responsibly.

Choose a well ventilated area and never leave solvent-soaked rags lying around. Use a designated, specifically designed waste bin for this purpose and empty it daily. Store your solvents in specially marked, sealed containers and keep the lids on whenever possible.

As with flammable items, make sure you label your storage container very clearly with appropriate signage so that the dangers are obvious.

Dispensing hazardous substances/en/key/hazardous-substance-signs

You must take just as many precautions when dispensing your hazardous materials as storing them. When pouring a flammable liquid, for example, use a container designed for the purpose. Consider products with a flame arrestor to stop the whole container igniting.

When thinking about the process of dispensing, products that allow you to carefully manage the amount of liquid flowing while avoiding glugging, splashing or sloshing are always a good idea.

Moving onto solvents, by reducing unnecessary evaporation you will minimise the risk of inhaling dangerous fumes. A simple way of doing this is to use the minimum amount of solvent required. Products that deliver a controlled amount of solvent exactly when you need it are ideal for this purpose.

Lockable storage

Safely locking away your hazardous materials will naturally reduce the risk of them being misused either accidentally or on purpose. It’s vitally important to purchase lockable storage that is up to the task.

When choosing your storage container, make sure it can actually contain your hazardous substance. For example, select a lockable bin made from a non-flammable material and/or one that won’t leak.

As a bonus, consider bins that have a restraining arm fitted. This will stop the lid from falling backwards unexpectedly or closing on you when you’re retrieving items!

Hazardous storage checklist

  • Choose an appropriate container that is up to the task.
  • Keep the container’s contents well organised and the whole thing isolated.
  • Empty hazardous waste containers regularly.
  • Include instructions for safe usage of the material.
  • Label, label, label. Johnnie’s mishap could have been easily avoided if he’d taken the time to clearly label the H₂SO₄container in the first place. Don’t make assumptions and ensure your staff know what they’re handling.

At Key, we’ve got a great range of containers specifically designed for the storage and dispensing of hazardous materials. Check out our COSHH Storage Cabinets department and find the right product for the job.

If you need any further advice when choosing, get in touch with our knowledgeable sales team who’ll be happy to help on 0800 652 6000.


*With thanks to for the joke. We could learn a lot from Johnnie and his laid back attitude to storage.