As you may already know, there are a ton of requirements and legal rulings for shipping hazardous materials. While these rules can feel mundane and tedious at times, we all know that they are created to protect the people and external cargo involved in the transportation of your goods. Although it is easy at times to forget the purpose of such rules when your goods are on the road, storing materials in your own warehouse helps to shine light on the underlying issue.
Storing hazardous materials in a warehouse, distribution center, or any other business building can be scary. There’s always the potential for leaks, spillage, breakage, or other disasters to strike at any time, so being on top of the best practices of hazardous material storage is important. Regardless of how much or little dangerous goods you are storing, following this list of best practices of hazardous materials storage can help you to streamline your storage operations while maintaining efficient and effective use of your warehouse space.
Hazardous Material Classification
Before diving too much into how hazardous goods should be stored, it’s important to understand the different types and what classifies each. Here is a list of classifications for hazardous materials:
- Flammable Liquid – any liquid with a flash point below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combustible Liquid – any liquid with a flash point between 100 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit and the liquid produces enough vapors to ignite if exposed to an ignition source.
- Flammable Solid – a substance that can cause a fire through friction, absorption of moisture or spontaneous chemical changes and, when ignited, will burn so vigorously that it creates a hazard.
- Oxidizer – a substance that readily yields oxygen to stimulate the combustion of organic matter.
- Corrosive – a liquid that corrodes steel (SAE 1020) at a rate greater than 0.250 inches at a test temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit or has a pH less than 2 or greater than 12.5.
- Organic Peroxide – an organic compound containing the chemical bond, oxygen joined to oxygen.
- Poison – a substance so toxic that it presents a risk to life or health.
- Compressed Gas – a substance in gas or liquid form contained in a vessel under pressure. This includes cylinders, lecture bottles, and aerosol cans. These substances may be flammable, non-flammable, or poisonous.
- Cryogenics – substances that are extremely cold such as liquid nitrogen, liquid helium, and dry ice. These substances may also become asphyxiation hazards if spilled in non-ventilated areas.
- Radioactive – any material having a specific activity greater than 0.002 microcuries per gram (uCi/g).
- Biomedical – tissues, organs, and blood from humans and primates.
Warehouse Placement and Safety Measures
One of the main concerns with hazardous material storage is safety. Hazardous materials are potentially (and most likely) dangerous to people, so the first priority in storing hazardous materials is to place them in a safe location.
Safe storage of hazardous materials can include a few things.
Warehouse Traffic Placement
First of all, hazardous material storage should never happen near loading docks or areas of frequent movement. While the average Joe won’t cause problems by bumping a crate with his elbow, forklifts and carts that move frequently down the same aisles can cause for some dangerous mishaps. Placing materials towards the back of the warehouse in largely traffic-free zones may mean less efficiency during pickup, but it will keep the work environment safer from potential disaster.
The only time that hazardous materials should ever move into high-traffic zones is during pickup times. When awaiting transit at the dock, ensure that the hazardous materials are clearly marked on all sides to warn workers of the safety concerns.
Authorized Personnel Control
Secondly, hazardous materials need to be handled with care. Although that may not sound like rocket science to you, we have heard all-too-many stories of warehouse workers puncturing holes with a forklift in drums filled with hazardous liquids. This can be avoided by only allowing authorized personnel to access hazardous material storage zones for cross-warehouse transport. It makes it especially easy when you have separate rooms for hazardous materials…
Separated Anti-Spill Rooms
Hazardous materials will occasionally leak without the instigation of a person. This is often more dangerous as it means spillage of dangerous liquids or powders may be happening without awareness. The best way to avoid the disasters associated with such instances is by designed a separate, anti-spill room.
Hazardous material storage spill rooms serve 2 primary purposes: 1) they may be locked to only be accessible by authorized personnel, and 2) they act as a “bowl” to trap liquids. To build one of these rooms, construct a floating, metal grate floor for any leaking fluids to pass through. This keeps fluids from harming other goods in the room. Make sure that the door starts above ground-level, as you want the room to “trap” any leaking materials. Lastly, it is smart to add a key or card lock to the door so only authorized personnel may access the hazardous materials.
It should go without saying, but as you know, ALL hazardous materials/dangerous goods must be clearly labeled on all sides. Don’t assume that the minimum legal requirements for transit are enough to keep your entire warehouse staff aware of the potential dangers of the goods.
It’s a good idea to separate all of your hazardous materials by classification to ensure there is not cross-contamination. Hazardous material storage of reacting agents can lead to horrific outcomes if improperly placed.
If any oxidizing agents – such as nitric acid – leaks, they may cause drums with radioactive or poisonous materials to corrode and begin leaking. This is why labeling and separation are key. Call an expert to make a clear assessment of what hazardous materials can and cannot be placed next to each other to avoid the amplification effect of dangerous good spillage.
Hazardous Material Storage – Concluding Thoughts
If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that hazardous material storage can be scary. Slight mishaps in handling and cross-warehouse transport can cause for huge safety complications. Furthermore, some hazardous material spills happen on their own without any human instigation. At the end of the day, your focus on warehousing hazardous materials should be to: 1) create a solution for unintentional, and accidental mishaps, and 2) create a process for the intentional handling of the goods.
Make sure your goods are labeled clearly at all times and separated based on their hazardous material classification(s). Keeping your dangerous goods from high-traffic zones and creating isolated, hazardous material rooms with floating grate platforms is also a good idea to avoid accidental spillage wreaking havoc on other materials. And lastly, allowing these rooms to only be accessible by authorized personnel can help control potential accidents.
If you have any other questions about best practices of hazardous material storage, or are looking to learn more about transporting hazardous materials, give us a call and we’d be happy to help you out!