Some of the chemicals we work with pose a risk of fire, explosion, dangerous reactions, toxic exposure and/or environmental damage if not stored and handled properly.

These guidelines explain the University’s requirement for the safe storage of chemicals. The information is provided to support implementation of the University's Work Health and Safety Policy.


This guidance is applicable to all University staff and students who work with chemicals. It is also applicable to contractors and affiliates who work with chemicals on University property.


  • Hazardous substances are pure chemicals or chemical mixtures that are hazardous to your health.
  • Dangerous goods are substances or articles that pose an immediate risk to people, property or the environment (eg. flammable, toxic, corrosive).
  • Scheduled poisons are chemicals and pharmaceuticals that have special controls applied to how they are packaged, labelled, dispensed and used to ensure the safety of the community.
  • A Hazardous area is a physical space where a flammable and/or explosive atmosphere is present or may be expected to be present occasionally.
  • An Ignition source is any source of energy sufficient to ignite a flammable atmosphere. Examples of ignition sources include naked flames, hot surfaces, mechanical sparks or static electricity, and electrical/electronic or mechanical equipment that are not designed for use in a hazardous area.

Performance standards

  • Chemical storage areas must be secured from unauthorized access.
  • Storage quantities must be kept to a minimum, to cater for short-term demand only.
  • Chemicals must be segregated from other incompatible substances by distance or containment barriers.
  • Chemicals that degrade and become unstable over time (or under certain conditions) must be monitored regularly to ensure their stability.
  • Australian Standard compliant chemical storage cabinets must be used for the segregation and storage of dangerous goods within University work areas (e.g. laboratories, clinics, workshops and art studios).
  • Australian Standard compliant will be constructed where larger storage volumes are required to meet the operational needs of a particular area.
  • Storage areas must be adequately ventilated to prevent exposure to hazardous substances, prevent the build up of flammable vapour (or gas) and maintain safe oxygen levels.
  • Ignition sources must be excluded from identified hazardous areas.
  • Adequate safety equipment including personal protective equipment, safety showers, eye wash stations and spill kits must be located in close proximity to chemical storage areas.
  • Summary inventories of all dangerous goods storage must be regularly updated using the University’s emergency/dangerous goods database.


Small volumes of hazardous substances and dangerous goods are permitted to be used and stored in the open laboratory, clinic, workshop or art studio - provided that the volumes match day to day usage. Hazardous substances or dangerous goods that are used infrequently must be stored in a dedicated storage area (eg. a labeled laboratory cupboard). Larger quantities of dangerous goods (> 10 L or 10 Kg) must be stored in Australian Standard compliant chemical storage cabinets or outside of the work area in a purpose built dangerous goods depot.

Indoor storage areas - the basic requirements

Non-hazardous chemicals, hazardous substances and small volumes of dangerous goods can be kept in a dedicated storage area within the work area. These dedicated storage areas must be:

  • well ventilated
  • well lit
  • separated from all ignition sources
  • protected from temperature fluctuations and direct sunlight
  • Secured from the public (including students).

The shelving and/or cupboards must:

  • be constructed of chemically resistant materials
  • provide a lip at the front of the shelf.

Maximum container size

The size of chemical containers used within work areas should be limited to 2.5 L or 2.5 Kg for dangerous goods and 5 L or 5 Kg for hazardous substances.

If chemicals are ordered in larger package sizes (eg. 20L drums) they must be delivered to an Australian Standard compliant dangerous goods depot and decanted to smaller volumes before entering the internal work area.

Segregation of chemicals

Incompatible chemicals must be segregated by distance or containment barriers. This is the recommended methodology for sorting chemicals within the work area:

  1. separate the liquids and solids
  2. group the chemicals by chemical classification e.g. non-hazardous, hazardous substance only, dangerous goods
  3. segregate dangerous goods by class e.g. Class 3 Flammable Liquids, Class 6.1 Toxic Substances, Class 8 Corrosive Substances
  4. store large quantities of dangerous goods in Australian Standard compliant chemical storage cabinets e.g. 25 L of flammable liquids in a small Class 3 flammable liquid cabinet
  5. store smaller quantities of dangerous goods in laboratory cupboards or on shelving with solids positioned above liquids and the different dangerous goods classes segregated using a separate laboratory cupboards for each class or by using separate plastic spill trays or tubs
  6. Check the incompatibility of common substances to identify any possible problems within dangerous goods classes (eg. acids and alkalis) and further segregate chemical as required
  7. non-hazardous chemicals and hazardous substances that are not dangerous goods can generally be stored together and sorted alphabetically.

Storage in cabinets

Where the volume of any class of dangerous good exceeds 10 L or 10 Kg, a chemical storage cabinet must be used. For example, if there is a total of 40L of flammable liquids in the work area, these items should be stored together in a flammable liquid cabinet. The cabinet must comply with the design requirements within the relevant Australian Standard (eg. AS 1940 for flammable liquids).

Small under-bench cabinets with capacity of 30 L or less are preferred for use in laboratories and other indoor work areas including clinics, workshops and art studios. However, in some locations larger cabinets may be appropriate.

Why use an Australian Standard compliant dangerous goods storage cabinet?
Australian Standard compliant cabinets are designed to:

  • protect the contents from damage
  • provide segregation between incompatible materials
  • contain small spills
  • in the event of a fire, provide some separation between the chemicals in the cabinet and a fire to facilitate the safe evacuation of the area.

Where should the chemical storage cabinets be located within the work area?
Chemical storage cabinets must not be positioned one above the other or in any area that will jeopardize an emergency exit path. To meet these requirements cabinets must not be positioned in corridors or under stairs and should be more than 3m away from any exit doors.

Requirements for flammable liquid cabinets
The Australian Standard specifies that ignition sources must be excluded from the cabinet and the area outside the cabinet for a distance of 3m measured laterally, and from ground level to a height 1m above the height of the cabinet. In areas where it not possible to achieve this, the below minimum requirements must be applied:

  • small under bench flammable liquid cabinets must be used
  • all ignition sources including all fridges, freezers, and other floor mounted electrical equipment must be kept 3m away from the cabinet, from ground level to the height of the cabinet
  • above the height of the flammable liquids cabinet, bench level to a height of 1m above the bench, all ignition sources must be excluded to a distance of 1.5m from the cabinet
  • in the event of a flammable liquids spill, the emergency power shut-off must be activated immediately.

What if a few different cabinets are required?
It is quite common for a laboratory to have multiple chemical storage cabinets, usually one flammable liquid cabinet and either a corrosive liquid cabinet or a toxic liquid cabinet (or both). In larger laboratories, there may be two flammable liquids cabinets positioned in different areas. This is acceptable, provided that the cabinets are separated and the total combined volume of all the cabinets does not exceed 250 L. A 3m separation between each cabinet is ideal, but a 1m separation is acceptable.

Compressed gases

Gas cylinders must not be stored inside a building.

Gas cylinders may only be kept in an internal work area (eg. a laboratory) if connected for use and reticulation from an external location or an Australian Standard compliant internal dangerous goods depot is not possible.

Where the use of a gas cylinder is required within an internal work area, the cylinder must be:

  • secured around the main cylinder body to prevent them falling
  • the smallest volume compatible with the operation of the facility.

Before introducing a Class 2.1 flammable gas cylinder to an internal work area a hazardous area assessment must be carried out, and where necessary ignition sources eliminated from the work area.

Where a toxic gas cylinder is in use, the presence of the gas must be clearly marked at the entrance to the work area and a gas detection and alarm system should also be used.

Cryogenic liquids

Due to the risk of oxygen depletion and asphyxiation, non-flammable, non-toxic cryogenic materials (eg. liquid nitrogen) must only be used in large well ventilated laboratories where a risk assessment has been carried out in relation to oxygen depletion and appropriate risk controls have been implemented (eg. oxygen monitoring, and additional ventilation).