Chemical Storage Safety - Guidelines

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1. Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of this guideline is to provide information for workers and students regarding the safe storage of chemicals in accordance with AS/NZ 2243.10:2004 Safety in Laboratories - Storage of Chemicals and the Queensland Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

2. Definition, Terms, Acronyms

ADG - Australian Dangerous Goods Code

DGC - Dangerous Goods Class

GHS - Globally Harmonised System

PGI - Packing Group I

3. Guideline Scope

This guideline applies to all UQ workers and students who need to store chemicals.

4. Guideline Statement

All organisational units have a responsibility to ensure that hazardous substances, including chemicals, are correctly stored and labelled. This guideline will aid UQ staff and students to understand their obligations and to apply the recommended protocols. This guideline should be be read in conjunction with other related sections of PPL 2.70 Occupational Hygiene and Chemical Safety.

5. Storage Requirements

5.1 Precautions for storing chemicals

When keeping chemicals in storage, the following precautions should be observed:

  • The quantities of hazardous chemicals should be kept to a minimum, commensurate with their usage and shelf life.
  • Schools/Centres/Institutes and Divisions are encouraged to purchase through the centralized University Chemical Store (Chemstore) to enable purchasing controls to be maintained;
  • When decanting chemicals ensure the containers and their seals or stoppers are appropriate for the type and quantity of chemical stored. As far as is practicable, chemicals should be stored in the containers in which they are supplied;
  • Opening packages, transferring contents, dispensing chemicals or sampling should not be conducted in or on top of a cabinet or a cupboard for storing chemicals unless it is specifically designed for this purpose and appropriate procedures and equipment are used;
  • Packages should be inspected regularly to ensure their integrity. Leaking or damaged packages should be removed to a safe area for repacking or disposal. Labels must be reattached or replaced, as necessary, to clearly identify the contents of the package;
  • Regularly review the chemicals held in storage and correctly dispose of those no longer required using the UQ waste procedures found on the OHS Division website: Chemical Waste Disposal.

5.2 Chemical segregation

Chemicals must be stored compatibly with one another. Refer to the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland DEIR Segregation tool for dangerous goods for further information. Further clarification if required can be obtained from an Occupational Hygiene Advisor or the Workplace Health and Safety Coordinator in your area.

5.3 Chemical labeling

All packages in storage should be clearly labelled to to identify the contents. All labels should comply with the relevant regulations for hazardous chemicals. See PPL 2.70.04 Chemical Labelling for more detailed information.

5.4 Flammable and combustible liquids

Flammable and combustible liquids must be handled and stored to minimise the fire risk.  See PPL 2.70.06b Flammable and Combustible Liquids: Storage and Handling - Procedures for further information

5.5 Chemicals requiring special storage conditions

  • Substances which are unstable at ambient temperature must be kept in a controlled temperature environment set to maintain an appropriate temperature range. Reliable alternative safety measures must be provided for situations when utilities such as power, fail. Substances that can present additional hazards on heating should be clearly identified.
  • Sunlight can affect some plastic containers or the chemical contents. Containers or chemicals that can be affected should not be stored  where they can be exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Chemicals such as hypochlorite solution and NoChromix glassware cleaner decompose to produce gaseous products and must be stored in vented cap containers. Ensure a vented cap container is used if decanted from the original manufacturer packaging. Vented cap containers must be stored in an upright position, otherwise venting of gaseous products will not take place.

5.6 Storage limits

AS/NZ 2243.10 – Safety in Laboratories: Storage of Chemicals, states the following quantities of chemicals are permitted to be stored in a laboratory, other than in a chemical storage cabinet (i.e. open bench storage). These limits should be followed as closely as possible, and quantities in excess of these levels should be stored in a dedicated storage cabinet.

DG Class Quantities

Chemicals kept on shelves or racks are subject to the following restrictions:

  • Shelving and its fixtures must be compatible with the goods stored, or should be suitably protected from the goods (NOTE: the use of particle board is not recommended as they may fail when subjected to moisture or chemicals);
  • The maximum holding capacity of the shelving systems must not be exceeded;
  • Chemicals shall not be stored on shelves higher than 1.5m from the floor;
  • Shelves used for chemical storage should be restrained against lateral movement and must have lips on them to prevent containers being pushed through to the other side.

5.7 Chemical storage in cabinets

Chemical storage cabinets for the storage of dangerous goods are required where the storage quantities exceed those listed in the table above. The cabinets should comply with the design requirements of AS1940-1995 or the design criteria in the relevant standard.

The following requirements apply to the storage of chemicals within cabinets at UQ:

  • When storing flammable substances, the contents of the cabinet must not exceed 100L. If a 250L cabinet is used for the storage, it must be de-rated to 100L. This involves removing some of the shelving and placing a sticker over the manufacturer’s capacity rating, so that it is clear that 100L is the maximum cabinet capacity;
  • For all new installations of chemical storage cabinets, consideration should be given to mechanical extraction where highly corrosive, toxic or volatile chemicals are being stored;
  • The capacity of any chemical storage cabinet used in a laboratory to store chemicals of classes 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.1 or 5.2 must not exceed 50L;
  • Within a radius of 10m, measured from any one cabinet, the cabinet storage capacity aggregated for all cabinets in that radius must not exceed 250L or 250kg, including no more than 10L or 10kg each of dangerous goods of classes 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.1 or 5.2 that are classified as PGI. The radius is measured horizontally through intervening walls, unless those walls are able to prevent the spreading of a fire of the magnitude that could be expected to result from the contents of the cabinet(s);
  • The spill catchment/bund of cabinets must not be used to store chemicals;
  • Where possible, store chemicals on spill trays within cupboards or cabinet.

Cabinets shall not be located:

  • One above the other;
  • Where they can jeopardize emergency escape (minimum 3m);
  • Under stairs or in corridors;

Example of spill tray use in storage cabinets


5.8 Storage of time-sensitive chemicals

Time-sensitive chemicals are those chemicals that, when stored for prolonged periods or under poor storage conditions, can develop hazards that were not present in the original formulation. There are four general categories of time-sensitive chemicals loosely based on those unsafe properties that can develop, such as:

  1. peroxide formers;
  2. peroxide formers that can undergo hazardous polymerization;
  3. materials that become shock or friction sensitive upon the evaporation of a stabilizer; and
  4. materials that generate significant additional hazards by undergoing slow chemical reactions.

It should be noted that time-sensitive chemicals can be pure reagents or they can be commercial mixtures formulated as cleaners, adhesives and other products.

All time-sensitive chemicals should be immediately marked with an expiration date upon receipt and listed on the laboratory chemical inventory to ensure timely disposal. The Safety Data Sheet for the chemical will state whether it is unstable under certain conditions or after a period of time in storage, and this information should be highlighted in the risk assessment.

Containers should be inspected periodically to verify their condition. Signs of peroxide formation include: crystal formation in the container, discoloration of liquids, or a “mossy” appearance around the cap.

If suspect materials are recognized, do not handle the container. Particularly, do not attempt to remove the cap. If explosive crystals have formed around the cap, the friction created by the unscrewing of the cap may be enough to detonate the compounds.


5.9 Chemical storage room requirements

All chemical storage rooms must be purpose built and comply with the requirements of Section 5 of AS2243.10. This standard allows for the storage of chemicals in quantities that exceed the quantities permitted to be kept on laboratory shelves or in chemical storage cabinets in the laboratory. New buildings will generally have a dedicated Hazardous Area Classification (HAC) assessment covering the storage of flammable liquids, which may also apply to general laboratory areas as well. The HAC should be consulted when deciding the type and quantity of flammable liquids to store within a building.

5.10 Storage of chemicals in refrigerators

Where flammable substances are to be stored in refrigerators, a pharmaceutical fridge or freezer with a spark proof interior must be purchased. Refer to PPL 2.70.07 Storage of Chemicals in Fridges, Freezers and Cold Rooms.

6. Applicable Standards for Further Reading

AS/NZS 2243.10 - Safety in laboratories – Part 10: Storage of Chemicals.

AS 4332 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders.

AS/NZS 1596 - LP gas - Storage and handling.

AS 1894 - The Storage and handling of non-flammable cryogenic and refrigerated liquids.

AS/NZS 2927 - The storage and handling of liquefied chlorine gas.

AS 1940 - The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids. 

AS 4326 - The storage and handling of oxidising agents. 

AS 2714 - Storage and handling of hazardous chemical materials – Class 5.2 substances. 

AS/NZS 4452 - The storage and handling of toxic substances.

AS 2507 - The storage and handling of agricultural and veterinary chemicals.

AS 3780 - The storage and handling of corrosive substances. 

AS/NZS 3833 - The storage and handling of mixed classes of dangerous goods in packages and intermediate bulk containers.

AS/NZS 4681 - The storage and handling of miscellaneous (class 9) dangerous goods and articles

AS 3961 - The storage and handling of liquefied natural gas

7. Contacts for Further Information

OHS Division:

University of Queensland Chemicals Store:

phone extension 51418, 52345, or 52528;

e-mail at

Director, Health, Safety and Wellness Mr Jim Carmichael
Director, Health, Safety and Wellness Mr Jim Carmichael