One of your school’s toughest challenges is striking the balance between keeping students safe and encouraging them to explore. Uncovering new knowledge often means taking calculated risks, particularly in the science lab.
To allow pupils to investigate the practical side of chemistry, you need to store a range of hazardous substances on site. This means keeping step with current COSHH regulations and following common-sense safety practices to cut fire, accident and injury risks – both during class and out of school hours.
Our education sector specialists share eight non-negotiable rules for safe chemical storage in your lab:
- Don’t stockpile hazardous substances. It’s easy to collect excessive amounts of chemicals, but only keep hold of what you need. On an annual basis, mark the volume of liquid in larger bottles and check how much is used throughout the year. If levels aren’t noticeably dropping, adjust your order and permanently reduce the quantity kept on site.
- Organise your chemical store. Draw up a plan of your chemical store cupboard, indicating where to keep different categories of chemicals. Conduct regular inspections against this plan to ensure substances are placed in the correct area.
- Follow the rules for flammable liquid storage. If you hold less than 50L of highly combustible liquids, store them in a fire-resistant metal cabinet within your prep room or chemical cupboard. If your stock exceeds 50L, opt for a separate, carefully located fire-resistant store, either inside or outside your school building.
- Avoid drips and spillages. Position large volumes of corrosive acids and non-acids at the bottom of the store, taking steps to prevent them from being kicked over or spilled. To avoid drips onto the floor, substances should also be set within a tray or surrounded by porous materials like sand or cat litter. This bunding should be of sufficient capacity to absorb or contain the contents of one bottle.
- Supply a steady flow of air. Robust, reliable ventilation is critical when storing hazardous materials. By far, the safest option is mechanical ventilation that achieves two air changes per hour in chemical stores and five air changes per hour in prep rooms. Air bricks may also be suitable under certain conditions. You must use at least two bricks (situated at opposite sides and heights to allow a through-flow of air) and keep them unobstructed and clear of dirt and debris.
- Choose suitable shelving material. Bare wooden shelves can absorb and hold spilled chemicals, so select hardware that’s finished with a non-permeable and easily wipeable surface.
- Display clear warning information. Prep rooms and chemical stores should feature the appropriate chemical warning signs and be securely locked when unoccupied.
- Keep your COSHH checks current. Stay on the right side of compliance law by documenting and implementing all appropriate assessments under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations. These will cover all aspects of safe storage and use. Advisory services often provide detailed assessments for members, so tap into available resources to streamline your safety efforts.
Get free, expert help with COSHH safety across your school
Every school has a legal responsibility to identify hazardous substances on site, minimise their risks and closely monitor control measures. Our education sector professionals can guide you through the assessment process from start to finish, helping you avoid claims and reduce dangers to staff, students and visitors.