Storing goods and materials safely

Safe storage of dangerous or hazardous materials


Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) you must store and handle chemicals and dangerous substances in a way that:

  • minimises the risks
  • limits people's exposure to them.

You need to assess the risks of storing and handling dangerous substances. This includes the possibility of environmental damage caused by leaks and spills.

You should then take any actions needed to control risks, including:

  • storing chemicals according to the manufacturer's instructions on the safety data sheet
  • keeping the smallest quantity of hazardous substances necessary
  • storing incompatible substances separately
  • taking steps to prevent release or leakage of dangerous substances
  • keeping a spill kit near to storage areas, and training staff in what to do in the event of a spill
  • cleaning up any leaks or spills that occur
  • using the right safeguards when handling substances - for example, wearing protective clothing or ensuring adequate ventilation
  • training employees who store and handle dangerous substances 
  • properly labelling containers used for short-term storage 

Fire and explosion risks

If you store chemicals or dangerous substances that could create a fire or explosion, you must also comply with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations.

Ensure that flammable substances are correctly stored in the right containers. Make sure they are not stored near to a source of ignition such as a heater.

It's also best practice to:

  • place stores of liquid above ground where they're unlikely to be damaged, eg away from traffic routes
  • avoid overfilling containers
  • supervise deliveries
  • maintain gauges, valves and pipework
  • track oil use - sudden high use is a sign of a leak
  • have procedures for dealing with emergency leakages
  • use a secondary containment system such as a drip tray or bund (a storage area designed to prevent liquids escaping)

Oil storage risks

Specific laws for businesses with oil storage container apply to England and Scotland. However, businesses in Northern Ireland and Wales are strongly advised to comply with these laws to lessen the risk of causing water pollution. See how to store oil safely and legally.