Hazardous materials are often found in a warehouse. These materials can be either raw materials or finished goods. A hazardous material is one that is capable of producing harmful physical effects such as a fire, sudden release of pressure and explosion or acute health effects, such as burns, convulsions and chronic effects such as organ damage and cancers.
Storing hazardous materials in a warehouse is the responsibility of the warehouse owner. In the US they operate within the boundaries set by Federal, State, and Local agencies that regulate hazardous materials in order to protect human health and the environment.
Federal Regulations on Hazardous Materials
These agencies have regulations that concern the handling, storage, and distribution of hazardous materials. These can include the federal Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, & Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (regulated by the Department of Transport), Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA, regulated by the EPA) and others.
State Regulations Hazardous Materials
In addition to federal laws, each state has a variety of regulations that also need to be observed. For example, some of the state laws include the California Safe Drinking Water & Toxic Enforcement Act, Connecticut Manufacturing Employer Hazardous Materials Notification Act, Louisiana Hazardous Materials Information, Development, Preparedness, and Response Act, and many others.
Agencies Outside The US
In other countries organizations exist to work in the same manner as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the USA, these include, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), the Department of the Environment and Water Resources in Australia and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in the UK.
Classification of Hazardous Materials
In order to safely and properly handle and store hazardous materials, it is important to know the hazards of those materials. Florida State University (FSU) has a Hazard Communication Program that helps all of their personnel working with hazardous materials to be aware of the materials that are stored in the facility.
Any number of hazardous materials can be stored in a warehouse. They are generally assigned to one or more of the following classifications.
- Flammable Liquid - any liquid having a flash point below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combustible Liquid - any liquid having a flash point between 100 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit and the liquid produces enough vapors to ignite if exposed to an ignition source.
- Flammable Solid - a substance that can cause a fire through friction, absorption of moisture or spontaneous chemical changes and, when ignited, will burn so vigorously that it creates a hazard.
- Oxidizer - a substance that readily yields oxygen to stimulate the combustion of organic matter.
- Corrosive - a liquid that corrodes steel (SAE 1020) at a rate greater than 0.250 inches at a test temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit or has a pH less than 2 or greater than 12.5.
- Organic Peroxide - an organic compound containing the chemical bond, oxygen joined to oxygen.
- Poison - a substance so toxic that it presents a risk to life or health.
- Compressed Gas - a substance in gas or liquid form contained in a vessel under pressure. This includes cylinders, lecture bottles, and aerosol cans. These substances may be flammable, non-flammable, or poisonous.
- Cryogenics - substances that are extremely cold such as liquid nitrogen, liquid helium, and dry ice. These substances may also become asphyxiation hazards if spilled in non-ventilated areas.
- Radioactive - any material having a specific activity greater than 0.002 microcuries per gram (uCi/g).
- Biomedical - tissues, organs, and blood from humans and primates.