Storing Hazardous Materials

Every day we make decisions on safe storage practices that you probably don’t even think about. Those common-sense practices used at home can be applied to hazardous material storage. It’s critical that everyone follows safe procedures for storing waste.


Hazardous waste containers should always be marked with the words “Hazardous Waste” and the container’s contents. An accumulation start date is also needed. Think of how you might freeze leftover food. If you don’t label the container with what’s in it and the date you put it in the freezer, will you have any idea what the food item was when you rediscover it in a month? A year?

food in freezer

Not only is hazardous waste labeling a requirement, but it’s also common sense. Will you always remember what you put in that drum over there? What if someone moves it or adds another drum to the area? Or adds a reactive chemical to the chemicals already in the drum? Clear labeling will avoid mix-ups and accidental chemistry experiments.


Waste must always be stored in closed containers, which avoids the release of vapors into the workplace and reduces the chance of spills. To go back to your refrigerator for a mental picture highlighting why these requirements make sense: Have you ever put a half-full glass back in the refrigerator to finish later, then needing a snack, you reach for that jar of pickles in the back, and knock over that glass soaking the refrigerator? Closed containers are the only way to store containers when they are not in use.


Housekeeping in the business setting serves the same purposes as at home. You want to avoid stepping on that metaphorical Lego with your bare feet. The area around waste storage must be clear of any additional hazards and well maintained. Overcrowding a storage space with unrelated items can cause spills and punctures to the containers. Obstacles may also cause a tripping hazard, necessitating the need to involve OSHA. It also limits access, so at the time of pickup, there may be service delays.


“Centralized” means keeping all of the full waste containers together. It does not apply to satellite accumulation points used for smaller processes and then combined into a larger container. Instead, the idea is that all the full, hazardous waste containers should be in a single waste storage area. This requirement benefits a business and the waste pickup driver. Your service provider will only need to collect waste from a single point instead of stopping in many different rooms the customer might be accumulating and keeping waste in.
home reno tools
A “centralized” at-home example is home improvement projects. Those projects always go smoothest when all your tools and equipment are in one location – not strewn throughout the house and garage.

Those “best practices” that you use at home to avoid accidents relate to the workplace. Drawing parallels between home and work practices can help us embrace the safety and compliance requirements that are in place at work. For more help with hazardous material storage, contact Sharps Compliance. Stay safe out there!


Chandra Lippitt has a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Colorado School of Mines. She is certified in RCRA and DOT as well as 40 Hour HAZWOPER certified. Chandra has been in the hazardous waste industry since 2008 and has managed industrial, healthcare, retail, and governmental clients, both large and small.

published in Hazardous Waste