Safety first: a guide to chemical storage

Chemical Test Bottles

Step 1: Identify the chemical

Before you can begin finding the right type of chemical storage tank you must first identify the type of chemical which is to be stored and take into account the factors surrounding the nature of the chemical.

The following list of considerations should be compiled and considered prior to deciding on a tank:

  • What is the full and correct name of the chemical?
  • Has the supplier issued me a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) with the chemical?
  • How much of the chemical will I need to store?
  • What is the state of the chemical – liquid/gas/vapour?
  • Is the chemical hazardous to humans or the environment?
  • Does the chemical give off fumes?
  • How long do I need to store this chemical?
  • At what temperature will I store this chemical?
  • Is this chemical unstable?
  • Is this chemical flammable?
  • Am I going to be mixing this chemical with anything?
  • Where will I store this chemical?
  • Are there any other factors I should consider about the environment in which this chemical will be stored?

When you have all the information, provide this list to your chemical storage tank consultant as they will need it when advising you on buying a suitable and safe storage tank.

In most instances consulting the MSDS sheet issued by the supplier will provide you with most of the information necessary to determine the safe storage and transportation of the chemical in question.

Step 2: Choosing the right type of tank for chemical storage

When choosing a tank that is to be used for chemical storage, a number of factors should be taken into consideration:

Thickness: Chemical tanks are built with chemical storage in mind, and as such are more robust and have thicker walls than general-purpose tanks. The thickness of the walls should be based on specific stress calculations that determine the specific gravity (relative density) rating. In many cases chemical tanks should be custom built and the thickness of the walls will be tailored to the specific needs of the chemical in question.

Materials: Chemical tanks should only be made from the highest-quality raw materials which are tested and 100% quality guaranteed. High-grade plastics, such as linear polyethylene are often used as they are less corrosive than steel tanks and provide a good chemical barrier.

Compatibility: The material should be tested and checked for compatibility with the type of chemical you need to store. Discuss with your consultant and check the tank’s chemical resistance chart (like this one) before making a decision. If you are unsure of the properties of a chemical you would like to store, check its Material Safety Data Sheet. More information on chemical compatibility below.

Standards: All industrial or chemical storage tanks should be designed in accordance with the criteria developed by Australian Standards (AS/NZS4766:2006). Make sure you look for the Australian Standard Certified Product Label and ask your consultant what tests the tank and materials have undergone.

Fittings and accessories: A key consideration for chemical tank manufacturers are the fittings, which need to be robust, durable and excellent quality as well as resistant to corrosive substances. Be sure to ask the manufacturer what tests the tank and fittings have undergone to make them suited to your purpose. In addition, never install or replace fittings which are not compatible with your tank.

There are a number of reason for buying and installing a specific chemical tank which is high quality, suited to your needs and guaranteed not to fail:

  • Certain chemicals are required (by Australian government policy) to be stored in a safe way and operators will have to provide proof that their tank complies with the requirements
  • Many insurers also require that chemicals are stored in tanks specially designed for safe chemical storage
  • Most organisations rely on their equipment to function optimally and having a robust industrial tank that works efficiently and is designed for their specific purpose ensures operational success
  • Economic assurance: if a tank fails and the chemical stored is compromised the business loses an asset
  • Fines and clean-up: if chemicals spill or leak the organisation has to cover the cost of the clean-up and is liable to pay fines
  • Safety of employees and equipment

Step 3: Determining Chemical Compatibility

The tank you choose needs to be compatible with the type of chemical you wish to store. Consult the tank’s chemical compatibility chart and the chemical MSDS to find out the storage requirements of the chemical you have in mind.

You will also need to list factors which may have an effect on the way the chemical is stored.

For example:

  • Length of time which the chemical will need to be stored
  • Temperature which the chemical will be stored at
  • How often the tank will be filled or emptied
  • Will you need to pressurise the tank
  • Where the tank will be placed
  • How the chemical is to be used
  • If chemicals are going to be mixed within in the tank
  • What accessories you may need to install on the tank

Communicate these considerations to your consultant and tank manufacturer and allow them to advise you before making a decision.

Step 4: Following chemical storage guidelines

Different chemicals have different chemical safety guidelines, which can be found on its own Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). In Australia, suppliers are responsible for issuing MSDSs, so be sure to request it if you are not issued one upfront.

However, below are a few general guidelines which hold true for the storage all chemicals:

  • Never mix chemicals unless you are absolutely sure of their compatibility.
  • Keep a list of all chemicals which are to be stored on your premises and identify the risks that are associated with each of them.
  • Control sparks, open flames and potential ignition sources around your chemical storage unit.
  • If the chemical is potentially hazardous to people or the environment, be sure to display appropriate safety signage.
  • Have a plan prepared to deal with spills and have clean up systems ready should an accident occur.
  • If you are storing dangerous or hazardous chemicals you will need to have emergency plans in place.
  • Ensure that you have the appropriate protective equipment available for those who will be handling the chemicals.
  • Be sure that the fire-fighting equipment is easily accessible if you are storing chemicals that might be flammable.
  • If you plan to re-fill a chemical storage tank with a chemical different from the one that was initially held, be sure that the proper cleaning process has been followed to prevent contamination.
  • Always ensure that chemicals are secured and that unauthorised access is prevented.


In summary: before you decide on a chemical storage tank you should first consider these four steps:

  1. Identify the chemical

  •  Ensure you know what chemical you are dealing with and its properties
  •  Consult your MSDS sheet for information on safe handling and storage

     2.  Find the right type of tank for chemical storage

  • The tank should be made for the specific purpose of storing chemicals
  • The tank manufacturer should be able to guarantee the quality of the tank
  • The thickness of the walls and other design factors should be suited to your specific needs
  • Your consultant should discuss the various installation considerations with you

     3.   Assess compatibility

  • You need to ensure compatibility by checking the tank’s chemical compatibility chart
  • You will need to consult the chemical’s MSDS form
  • You will need to communicate a list of other factors with your consultant, including – but not limited to – temperature, pressurisation, and use and length of storage time.

     4. Follow the chemical storage guidelines

  • Check the guidelines for each specific chemical
  • Follow the general guidelines for safe chemical storage


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Author: H Lindholm