Chemical Storage

The proper storage of hazardous materials is a key component in accident prevention.

Non-hazardous chemicals can be sorted alphabetically on shelves or in cabinets with secondary containment (a chemically compatible tray, usually plastic) provided for liquids and oxidizers (dry and liquid).  Hazardous chemicals must be separated by compatibility groups before being sorted alphabetically.

Hazardous chemicals should always be stored below eye level to reduce the likelihood of accidental splashed to the eyes and face.

It is always advisable to store liquids and oxidizers (dry and liquid) in secondary containment.  This is especially important when incompatible chemicals are stored in the same acid cabinet or flammable materials cabinet.

If chemicals are stored on a shelf, rather than in a cabinet, the shelf must have a 1″ high lip to prevent the containers from falling off.  Contact Physical Plant if your shelves do not have the required lip, and ensure that any equipment purchases meet this requirement.

Fume hoods and laboratory benches are not acceptable storage areas for chemicals, and these areas should be maintained in an organized fashion, free of clutter. Only working quantities of chemicals should be kept in chemical fume hoods.

When moving chemicals it is highly recommended to use a cart that has sides, and to use a secondary containment tray in addition in case a spill were to occur.  Under no circumstances should chemicals be moved off of Marshall University property.  Transport of chemicals in private or University vehicles is not acceptable.  Contact Environmental Health and Safety with any questions.

Sources for more information include the chemical label, product MSDS, manufacturer’s web site, and Environmental Health and Safety.



During storage all chemical containers must be labeled with the Identity of the Chemical(s) therein and Appropriate Hazards Warnings, in words, pictures, symbols, or a combination thereof which provide all of the hazard information.  Labels on containers with mixtures of difference chemicals must indicate the constituents and approximate percentages of each.

Containers of Waste Chemicals must have a completed label.  An Unwanted Chemical Label template is available in MS Word.
This label should also be used for chemicals that are no wanted, but that are not “chemical waste” items.

A group of common hazard pictures is available for use in creating appropriate container signage.  The common hazard pictures are in a PowerPoint file.

To assist Emergency Responders, the entry door(s) to all rooms and laboratories at Marshall University were hazardous materials are stored must be labeled with the NFPA Hazardous Materials Diamond.  A template for the Hazardous Materials Diamond is available in Word and instructions are provided.



In addition to proper labeling, storage areas should be inspected monthly.  Departments generating and/or storing hazardous materials or hazardous wastes should utilize the Hazardous Materials and Hazardous Waste Self-Inspection Form, and submit completed forms to Environmental Health and Safety, or maintain in Department for three (3) years.


Compressed Gas

Gas cylinders need to be secured to a stationary object by a chain or strap two thirds of the way up the cylinder to prevent them from falling.  Best practice is to secure them individually.  In some cases it may be acceptable to secure small groups of cylinders together.  Contact Environmental Health and Safety for guidance if needed.

Cylinders of liquid nitrogen should not be stored in areas that do not have ventilation, such as cold rooms.


Flammable and Combustible Materials

The Management of Flammable and Combustible Materials is critically important to ensure that these materials are properly used, stored, and disposed of.

Flammable and combustible materials are widely used across campus from the art department (paint remover/thinner and photography developing chemicals), the science department (preservative alcohols and chemistry solvents) to the physical plant (gasoline, paint, and parts cleaner).  Click on the link above (first line) for more information.

Flammable and combustible materials should never be stored in a household refrigerator or freezer.  Use only a unit approved for storage of flammable material, commonly called “intrinsically safe” or “flammables storage” refrigerator/freezer.  An “explosion proof” unit is not necessary only for flammable materials.


Chemical Compatibility

Proper segregation of incompatible chemicals is critically important to preventing chemical interactions.  If you need an easy tool to separate your chemicals, try the Quick Guide to Chemical Compatibility.

The Hazardous Chemicals of Concern List and Storage Guide provides information about chemicals commonly found in university laboratories and divides them into compatibility groups.  The chemicals in each of the 10 groups should be stored away from the other groups.  Incompatible chemicals cannot be stored together, but may be stored in the same cabinet if secondary containment is provided.

For example, the following can go together in one acid cabinet: inorganic acids like sulfuric acid that are in one tray, and organic acids like acetic acid that are in another tray.


Unwanted chemicals must also be stored according to chemical compatibility, and placed only in chemically compatible containers.  Cole-Parmer maintains a searchable database for determining container compatibility.


Peroxide-forming chemicals present an additional hazard and must be dated when received, should be tested for presence of peroxides and the results of testing recorded on the label, and disposed of promptly if levels exceed 25 ppm.  See Management of Peroxide-Forming Chemicals on our Hazardous Materials page for more information.

Another excellent source of information about peroxide formers and other time sensitive materials is this 3-part article from the Journal of Chemical Health & Safety – Management of Time-Sensitive Chemicals.


The following resources are external links to additional chemical storage guidance:



Hazardous Chemical Compatibility Groups

Chemical Category Storage Consideration
Inorganic Acids Store in an Acids or Corrosive Cabinet. Use secondary containment to separate from other acids and bases (for example: organic acids, inorganic bases, oxidizing acids)
Organic Acids Store in an Acids or Corrosive Cabinet and in secondary containment to separate from other acids and bases. If oxidizing acids are present move them to the flammables cabinet in secondary containment to separate from flammables.
Oxidizing Acids Store in an Acids or Corrosive Cabinet. Use secondary containment to separate from other acids and bases (for example: inorganic acids, inorganic bases). Remove ALL organic material from this cabinet.
Inorganic Bases Store in a Bases or Corrosive Cabinet. Use secondary containment to separate from other acids and bases (for example: inorganic acids, oxidizing acids)
Flammable and Combustible Liquids Store in a Flammables Cabinet (preferably a metal, commercially manufactured cabinet designed for storage of flammables)
Gases Gas cylinders need to be secured by a chain or strap half to three quarters of the way up the cylinder to prevent them from falling.
Organic Peroxides This material is an organic oxidizer. Store by itself in secondary containment to separate from other organic and inorganic chemicals.
Oxidizers Store in secondary containment to separate from other organic and inorganic chemicals.
Reactives (Water, Pyrophoric & Explosive Materials) Due to the varying characteristics of these materials contact Environmental Health and Safety for guidance.
Toxic and Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Store in separate Toxics storage area OR in separate secondary containment in a Flammables Storage Cabinet.