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How to Store Equipment & Materials Safely

by Cindy Quarters ; Updated September 26, 2017
Portrait of a cheerful woman with boxes in a storage room

Safe storage of materials and equipment is essential for many businesses, such as construction job sites, laboratories, and other locations that handle chemicals, flammable gases and other hazardous materials. Storage methods and procedures are regulated for many such items; when in doubt it is always best to be cautious to prevent accidents. Locking storage cabinets and restricting access to storage areas will prevent unauthorized handling of stored items and minimize the possibility of theft.

General Plan

Create a plan for storing all equipment and materials at your site. Assign a specific location to each item or type of item and label the space accordingly. Make certain that work areas and walkways are kept clear of all stored items. Use tape or paint to identify such areas on the floor of a large area, such as a manufacturing facility. In an office, laboratory or similar smaller setting, use cabinets with doors that close securely. Always leave at least 1.5 feet between the top of stored items and fire sprinklers, if present. Make sure that all stacks are solid and secure them whenever possible.

Flammable Materials

Materials that are highly flammable require special handling. Gases such as propane and butane must be kept in pressure-safe containers with appropriate labels. Flammable gases are to be kept in a separate, well-ventilated area. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Association, flammable liquids such as gasoline and kerosene must be stored in approved containers located away from other flammable materials. These can be stored only in a specially constructed room that is able to contain a fire for one to two hours. Keep flammable materials 50 feet away from sources of heat or flame.

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Chemicals and Other Hazardous Materials

All chemicals, including cleaning materials, should be kept in their original containers or in properly labeled containers of an appropriate type. Every workplace that uses chemicals of any type should have a book containing all material data safety sheets, and the book must be kept where it is easily accessible. Chemicals must be stored where there is no public access and where tipping or breaking can’t happen, such as secure shelves inside a locked cupboard. The cupboard must be labeled with the type of materials it contains.

Machinery and Equipment

Machinery such as forklifts such must be kept in a safe location where it is protected from unauthorized access, weather and accidental damage. It must be kept away from driveways, walkways and other areas where access is required. All equipment should be turned off when not in use. If there is a chance of oil, hydraulic fluid or other liquids leaking from the vehicle while it is stored, use a drip pan underneath it to catch any spills. Check the area frequently for such leaks and clean them up immediately if any are found, as these represent significant fall hazards for employees.

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