Topics explained – Chemical storage, handling & security


Anyone storing chemicals at their workplace should refer to the Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace – Code of Practice for guidance.

Chemicals can pose a risk, even when not in use.

  • Flammable and oxidising chemicals may cause or contribute to a fire.
  • Corrosive chemicals can burn and destroy body tissue on contact as well as damage property and structures
  • Inhaling toxic chemicals can lead to poisoning or suffocation
  • Compressed gases can also suffocate or poison workers if they leak.

Some chemicals are not compatible with one another. When incompatible chemicals mix they may:

  • ignite or explode
  • release toxic, flammable or corrosive gases
  • corrode chemical containers, causing them to leak.

It’s important that you identify which chemicals are incompatible and ensure that hazardous chemicals are stored safely in a way that:

  • minimises the chance of any incidents and reactions
  • reduces the chance of them contributing to or worsening an incident.

Guide to storing chemicals

The guide to managing risks of storing chemicals in the workplace is aimed at businesses who do not have a major chemical store or expertise in handling chemicals.

The guide outlines some of the common health and safety risks of storing chemicals in the workplace and shows ways to safely identify and manage those risks.

Useful tools include:

  • a storage checklist to help develop and inspection program for your storage area
  • a segregation chart with broad advice about the types of chemicals that should be separated and the minimum separation required.

Handling and storage of substances in sample bags/containers

For the safe collection, handling, storage and labelling of sample substances, known or unconfirmed, which could be hazardous or toxic, the following risk control measures must be considered:

  • the sample bag/container to be used must be assessed for material compatibility with the range of substances to be collected and stored
  • review the shelf life of the sample bag/container, in particular the ambient storage condition and its potential reaction with the contents to be stored
  • appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is available where required
  • review the intended usage with respect to the substance (the content) to be stored inside the sample bag/container, including:
    • the effect of longer term material degradation and potential chemical reactions
    • the expected length of time that the sample substance will be stored in the sample bag/container
    • the substances susceptibility to outgassing and under what conditions; if so what are these gases
  • correct labelling of the substance contained within the sample bag/container
    • label it with its proper chemical name once determined by a competent person
    • if unconfirmed, label as unknown
  • the environmental conditions
    • conditions must be suitable for the correct storage of known or determined substances
    • ensure the contents and the sample bag/container do not deteriorate into a condition which may be unsafe.
  • refer to the relevant Safety Data Sheet (SDS) if substance and sample bag/container material are known.

See also:


The National Code of Practice for Chemicals of Security Concern promotes effective chemical security management of 15 high-risk chemicals. Included are steps you can take to ensure that your chemicals are not stolen and used for terrorist purposes.

Manufacturers, importers and transporters

Chemical security includes all points in the supply chain. If you are a business that either imports, reformulates, repackages, transports or stores chemicals, you play a crucial role in keeping Australia safe.

It is important that you address your business’s risk and apply security measures to reduce these risks.


If you are a retailer selling chemical products you are in an important position to identify and report suspicious behaviour. It is your responsibility to be aware of and report suspicious behaviour that takes place around the chemicals you sell. Whether it is your customers, staff or contractors, remember to be aware at all times.