Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Small-scale chemical storage - Cabinets, shelves and vehicles

Small scale chemical storage - cabinets, shelves and vehicles

There are legal requirements if you store chemicals in small-scale stores, such as in:

  • chemical cabinets, cupboards or on shelves, eg in a laboratory or workshop
  • a vehicle, eg if you carry paints, pesticides or cleaning chemicals for your work.

Store chemicals safely

You must store any hazardous chemical in a suitable container that is:

  • sealed securely to prevent spills
  • resistant to the effects of the substance
  • strong enough to cope with handling.

You can check the chemical's safety data sheet (SDS) to see if it is hazardous. The SDS contains information about the chemical, including details of how to store, use and dispose of it safely. See the page in this guideline: Chemical labelling and information.

Separate all incompatible chemicals. If you store incompatible chemicals together and there is a leak or spill, it could cause a violent reaction. A chemical's SDS will tell you which chemicals it shouldn't be mixed with.

If you store pest control products on your site, make sure you store them safely to avoid causing pollution.

Pesticides and biocides

If you store chemicals in your work vehicle, lock the vehicle whenever you leave it. Don't leave chemicals on display.

Keep your chemicals in a deep drip tray in your vehicle. Alternatively, ensure that your chemicals are in double-skinned containers, and that you keep containers tightly shut.

Secure chemical containers so that they cannot move about when you are driving.

Use secure shelving and secondary containment

Use bunded shelving to catch any spills. Alternatively, keep chemicals on shelves within drip trays.

You should secure all shelving and storage units to the floor or wall to prevent them toppling over.

Store all bottles, vials and other chemical containers:

  • within a drip tray
  • in a bunded cabinet
  • in a bunded chemical store
  • on bunded shelving.

The bund or drip tray should be big enough to contain any spills.

Make sure that your drip trays or bunded shelves are made of a suitable material for the chemical you are storing. For example, you may not be able to use a polyethylene container to store corrosive chemicals.

Keep double-wrapped or bagged chemicals in trays. Keep chemicals from the same batch together in the same storage tray.

Store flammable chemicals safely

Store flammable chemicals in a fire-proof steel cabinet or chemical storage cupboard. If you store lots of flammables, you may need to keep them in a designated room.

Common flammable substances include:

  • cleaning fluids
  • adhesives
  • thinners
  • aerosols
  • paints.

Keep information and implement safety precautions

You should:

  • keep an inventory of the chemicals you have on site, and details of when you received them and when you should dispose of them if you don't use them up
  • avoid storing chemicals above eye-height, or on top of cupboards or cabinets - use safety steps if you need to reach chemicals stored at height
  • wear appropriate protective clothing when you are dealing with chemicals, such as gloves, goggles or a face mask –
  • avoid storing chemicals directly on the floor, even temporarily.

Prevent vandalism of chemical stores

You are responsible for all chemicals on your site. You can be prosecuted for a pollution incident that originates on your site even if it was caused by vandals.

Use lockable storage units and keep chemicals locked away if possible when they are not in use.

Further information

HSE: Chemical manufacture and storage for small companies

Return to Chemical Storage home page

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