U.S. Department of Labor
Process: Housekeeping Safety
Areas of Concern – Material Storage
The improper storage of materials can lead to worker injuries through the blockage of access and egress points, falling objects, and trip hazards. Employers are responsible for the safe storage of materials so that they do not create a hazard for workers (29 CFR 1915.81(a)(3)). Materials such as bags, containers, and bundles must be stacked, blocked, interlocked and limited in height to prevent sliding or collapse (29 CFR 1910.176(b)). Also, storage areas should be kept free from accumulated materials that may cause trip hazards, fires or explosions, or that may contribute to the infestation of vermin (such as insects, birds, and rodents). This is especially true near walkways and working surfaces frequented by workers (see 29 CFR 1915.81(a)(2) through (a)(5), (b), (c) and 29 CFR 1915.88(j)).
It is paramount that employers train workers to recognize hazards associated with the storing of different materials in the workplace. Training should also cover the appropriate height and weight of stored materials, the safe configuration of material storage (i.e., stacked or piled), the accessibility to the materials being stored, and the importance of continued accessibility to entrances, exits, and emergency equipment (see 29 CFR 1915.81(a)(4)).
Any flammable liquid must be stored in tanks or closed containers (29 CFR 1910.106(e)(2)(ii)). While containers usually must be made of metal, glass or plastic containers may be used where the content may lead to the degradation of the metal and certain other requirements are met (29 CFR 1910.106(d)(2)(i)).
Flammable liquids must be stored in a storage room or cabinet meeting OSHA standards (see 29 CFR 1910.106(d)(3) and (4)). However, a small amount may be kept outside designated storage areas (29 CFR 1910.106(e)(2)(ii)(b)):
- 25 gallons of Category 1 flammable liquids in containers.
- 120 gallons of Category 2, 3, or 4 flammable liquids in containers.
- 660 gallons of Category 2, 3, or 4 flammable liquids in a single portable tank.
Where limited storage space is available, containers of flammable liquids may be piled one upon the other, so long as they are separated by dunnage (such as pieces of wood, matting, or similar material) sufficient to provide stability and to prevent excessive stress on container walls. The height of the pile must be consistent with the stability and strength of the containers (29 CFR 1910.106(f)(1)(iii)).