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Safety, July 10, 2012

Follow a coordinated plan for storing chemicals

In the answer to our troubleshooting quiz, we mentioned copper cleaning compound. It's one of those useful, but dangerous, chemicals you sometimes must use to get the job done right. It might seem like a good idea to keep a container of this in your toolbox, but don't do that.

You need to follow a coordinated plan for storing chemicals. For example, store flammables in their own locker. There are special lockers made for this purpose. If you store corrosives in that same locker, they'll probably eat the containers that hold the flammables. This can cause either a slow release that leads to fire or a rapid release that results in explosion.

Some corrosives work by oxidizing, so they tend to make fires burn hotter. That makes it harder to contain or extinguish the fire. Consider where you store oxidizing chemicals.

Read the label or MSDS of each chemical for storage instructions. Use a colored label system so it's easy to see which locker to put a container in.

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