Storage by Compatibility Group
Store chemicals in the laboratory according to their compatibility groups. Do not store chemicals in alphabetical order, as this might place incompatible chemicals next to each other (examples include acetic acid and acetaldehyde, sodium cyanide and sulfuric acid, sodium borohydride and sodium chlorate), increasing the potential for accidental mixing of incompatible chemicals. The diagram entitled “Suggested Shelf Storage Pattern” (Appendix 4-A) indicates a recommended arrangement of chemicals according to compatibility. These compatibility groups should be stored separately, especially chemicals with an NFPA 704 or HMIS reactive rating of 3 or higher, (see Section IV) and in dedicated and labeled cabinets. Within any compatibility group, you can arrange chemicals alphabetically to facilitate ease of retrieval. The following are recommended compatibility groupings:
Group A – Acids, Inorganics
Store large bottles of acid in special acid cabinets, cabinets under lab benches, or on low shelves. Place acids in plastic trays for secondary containment in case of breakage. Segregate inorganic and oxidizing acids from organic compounds including organic acids (e.g., acetic acid) and other combustible materials. Segregate nitric acid (>40%) from organic chemicals, including organic acids. Store acids separate from bases and other reducing agents. Inorganic salts, except those of heavy metals, may be stored in this group. Glacial acetic acid should be stored with flammable and combustible materials since it is combustible.
Group B – Bases
Segregate bases from acids and oxidizers on shelves near the floor. The preferred storage container for inorganic hydroxides is polyethylene instead of glass. Place containers in trays for secondary containment in the event of leakage or breaks.
Group C – Organic chemicals
Segregate organic compounds from inorganics. Organics and inorganics with NFPA 704 or HMIS reactive hazard rating of two (2) or less may be stored together. Chemicals with a reactive hazard rating of three (3) or four (4) are to be stored separately.
Group D – Flammable and Combustible Organic Liquids
Flammable and combustible liquid storage per room is limited to 10 gallons (37.9 liters) in open storage and use, 25 gallons (94.7 liters) in safety cans, and 60 gallons (227.3 liters) in flammable storage cabinets. Remember that only 30 gallons (113.6 liters) of Class I liquids are permitted per room, and International Fire Code restrictions might limit this even further if your lab is located on an upper floor in a new or renovated building. Store flammable and combustible materials away from sources of ignition such as heat, sparks, or open flames, and segregated from oxidizers.
Group E – Inorganic Oxidizers and Salts
Store inorganic oxidizers in a cool, dry place away from combustible materials such as zinc, alkaline metals, formic acid, and other reducing agents. Inorganic salts may also be stored in this group. Store ammonium nitrate separately.
Group F – Organic Peroxides and Explosives
Peroxides contain a double-oxygen bond (R1-O-O-R2) in their molecular structure. They are shock and heat sensitive (e.g. benzoyl peroxide), and readily decompose in storage. Store shock and heat-sensitive chemicals in a dedicated cabinet.
Some non-peroxide chemicals can readily form shock-sensitive, explosive peroxides when stored in the presence of oxygen. Examples include ethyl ether, tetrahydrofuran, and cumene. Dispose of, or use, these by their expiration date. See Chapter 12 for information on safe storage of peroxidizable compounds.
Common explosive compounds include 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), nitroglycerin, and several metal fulminates and azides. 2,4,6-trinitrophenol, also known as picric acid, is normally sold as a saturated solution containing at least 40% water, and classified as a flammable solid. If allowed to dry to less than 10% water, picric acid becomes a DOT Class 1.1 explosive. Nitroglycerin in research is usually sold as a tincture mixed with alcohol, but if the alcohol evaporates, the result is explosive nitroglycerin. Please contact EHS if you use or handle compounds that are explosive or can become explosive with age or evaporation.
Group G – Reactives
Store water reactives in a cool dry place protected from water sources. Alkali metals (lithium, sodium, potassium, rubidium, and cesium) should be stored under mineral oil, or in waterproof enclosures such as glove boxes. A Class D fire extinguisher should be available in case of fire. Contact EHS if one is not available in your laboratory. As an added precaution, store containers in trays or other secondary containers filled with sand.
Pyrophorics (Air Reactives)
Store pyrophorics in a cool, dry place, and provide for an air tight seal. Store white or yellow phosphorous under water in glass stoppered bottles inside a metal can for added protection.
Group H – Cyanides and Sulfides
Cyanides and sulfides react with acids to release highly toxic gases. They must be isolated from acids and other oxidizers.
Group I – Carcinogens, Highly Toxic Chemicals, and Reproductive Toxins
A dedicated lockable storage cabinet in a “designated area” for carcinogens and highly toxic chemicals is the preferred storage method. Stock quantities of reproductive toxins are to be stored in designated storage areas. Use unbreakable, chemically resistant secondary containers. Post the storage cabinet with a sign stating “CANCER SUSPECT AGENT”, “HIGHLY TOXIC CHEMICALS”, or “REPRODUCTIVE TOXINS”. These signs are available at the EHS Safety Labels Page, and are depicted and described in Chapter 7. Maintain a separate inventory of all highly acute toxics, carcinogens, and reproductive toxins. See the Appendices to Chapter 7 for a listing of common carcinogenic and highly toxic chemicals. See the Appendix to Chapter 8 for a listing of reproductive toxins.