Storing hazardous chemicals

Why is it important to safely store hazardous chemicals? 

Even when not in use, hazardous chemicals can still pose a risk. Some can cause or contribute to a fire or explosion, injure or poison people, damage property if they are stored unsafely.  

Some hazardous chemicals are also not compatible with one another. When incompatible hazardous chemicals mix, they may cause an explosion, release toxic, flammable or corrosive gases, or corrode chemical containers.  

It is important to identify incompatible hazardous chemicals and ensure that these chemicals are stored well away from each other so that it: 

  • minimises the chance of any incidents and reactions, and  

  • reduces the chance that stored chemicals will contribute to or worsen an incident. 

You can refer to the Managing risks of storing chemicals in the workplace guide for more information about incompatible chemicals.  

Storing hazardous chemicals safely  

Storing chemicals safely in your workplace includes using the appropriate: 

  • container 

  • storage and handling systems 

  • signs. 

You must also keep a manifest and use placards if you store hazardous chemicals above a certain amount. 

There are different requirements for storing in hazardous chemicals in bulk. 

States and territories can have different regulations on storing chemicals. Contact your WHS regulator for more information. 

Store the chemical in a safe container 

When you store chemicals, the container must: 

  • be in a sound condition 

  • safely contain the chemical 

  • be compatible with the chemical.  

Someone must not be able to mistake the container and packaging for food or drink. 

For flammable gases or gases under pressure, your container size must: 

For all other hazardous chemicals: 

  • your container must be less than 500 kg or 500 L or in an intermediate bulk container (IBC). 

Using underground storage 

If you’re not using underground storage anymore, you must empty and remove it.  

If you used it for flammable gases or flammable liquids, and it has been empty for 2 years, it’s considered abandoned. You must notify the WHS regulator in your jurisdiction of the abandonment of the tank. 

Storage and handling systems 

You must: 

  • only use storage and handling systems for their intended purpose 

  • consider whether your storage and handling system is safe to work with before you use it 

  • provide training to ensure these activities are safe. 

Empty handling systems before disposal. If you can’t empty the system, label it as if it contains hazardous chemicals. 

Storing chemicals in bulk 

 You are storing a hazardous chemical in bulk if it’s in: 

  • a container with a capacity over 500 L or 500 kg or 

  • an undivided quantity over 500 kg, if the chemical is a solid. 

You must put a placard on these containers in line with WHS Regulations. 

Secure bulk containers and any pipe work or attachments to foundations and supports so they’re stable and don’t move. 

Flammable substances, asphyxiants and combustible dusts 

You have specific WHS duties for flammable substances, asphyxiants and combustible dusts that can create hazardous atmospheres. 

Your duties apply to the: 

  • correct storage for flammable substances, asphyxiants and combustible dusts in confined spaces 

  • compatibility of the storage area to contain spills 

  • restriction on supplying and access to minors under the age of 16 years. 

The Storage of flammable liquids guide has more information on these duties. 

Supporting information