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Steel buildings are quickly becoming one of the most popular options when it comes to storing and containing hazardous materials. These prefabricated chemical storage facilities can be built in compliance with U.S. regulations and laws regarding the storage of HAZMAT, making them a safe option for securely and legally housing hazardous chemicals and waste.
So what do you need to know when considering a steel building for your storage options? There are several factors to consider when designing a steel building for housing hazardous materials, based upon the types of materials you're storing, and national and local safety regulations.
There are four major classifications of hazardous materials: corrosive materials, flammable materials, explosive and reactive materials and toxic materials. The type of structure you need will depend upon which classification the items you are storing falls into.
Corrosive materials are defined as chemicals and solids which can break down or dissolve other materials and can potentially cause harm to skin and eyes if not stored properly. These include acid-based chemicals, such as nitric acid and potassium hydroxide, and many types of cleaning solvents. Flammable materials are extremely prone to combustion and very dangerous when not stored at the right temperature. These chemicals have a flash point, or combustion point of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above, and include many types of fuel and gasoline. Explosive materials are those materials that function by explosion of internal chemicals such as black powder or nitroglycerine. Toxic materials are those materials that are hazardous to human and animal health when not correctly handled. Each type of material has its own storage needs in order to be safely contained and meet all rules and regulations for the containment of hazardous materials.
Things to Consider when Constructing a Steel BUilding to Store Hazardous Materials
Building Requirements as Defined by Law
In order for hazardous materials to be legally and safely stored the steel structure where these chemicals are housed must meet government-mandated safety regulations. When planning your steel structure work with the manufacturer to make sure that your building meets standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). All electrical wiring and installments in your building must be National Electric Code (NEC) compliant and be wired with UL Classified electrical parts. Each agency has resources posted on their website as well as consultants available to help with your contraction. When selecting a manufacturer for your steel building be sure to choose a builder who is knowledgeable on all safety regulations and has previous experience building structures that comply with safety regulations.
Secure a Fire Rating if Necessary
Depending upon the placement of your structure and the materials you are storing a fire rating may be required. Prior to construction be sure to identify all materials to be stored and cross check these materials with the Material Safety Data Sheets provided by OSHA. These sheets identify materials that require a fire rated building for proper storage. The placement of your building also determines whether a fire rating is necessary. If your steel structure is to be stored at, or closer, than 75 feet away from other buildings or property lines a fire rating must be obtained for your building. A fire rating is obtained based upon the test of building materials which measure the rate at which fire would burn through building components, as well as the amount of heat and pressure a structure can withstand. If you need to obtain a fire rating contact your local fire marshall or the Code of Federal Regulations for information on how to get your building fire rated. For more on building codes by state visit our building codes guide
Make Sure your Structure is Sound
Before you begin storing materials in your steel structure be sure to carefully inspect your building and make sure that all building materials are in sounds condition without cracks, dents or any visible damage. Also be sure to consider the safety of others and include strong safety locks on your structure. These locks should remain in place at all times unless materials are being moved in and out of the structure, and should be strong enough to resist accidental or purposeful tampering. Upon inspection also be sure you are aware of the maximum load your building can support. To avoid inflicting damage and causing potential spills or accidents be sure you know the amount of weight your floor can support. All hazardous materials should be clearly marked with the weight of their contents and this will allow you to calculate the amount of material you can safely store in your structure. The number of units of hazardous materials you're allowed to store in your building is also defined by regulatory standards as is the layout of containers and stacking limitations.
Prepare for Proper Chemical Cleanup
In the event of a spill, it is important to be properly prepared for cleanup ahead of time to minimize the response time and help effectively contain any hazards posed by the exposure of these materials. In order to meet safety regulations, steel buildings are required to include a sump, or secondary containment. The sump is a tough below the floor which will drain away spilled chemicals and materials. A sump is usually around 6 inches deep and located at the lowest point in the floor with a drain to carry away spilled chemicals. Sumps are continually maintained and welded to ensure they are impervious to leaks. Cover your sump with am easily identifiable steel grate and plastic sump liner to fully contain all spilled materials.
Maintain the Correct Internal Environment for your Building
Many chemicals have their own chemical reactions when stored at certain temperatures. Be sure you're fully aware of the correct storage temperature of each of your materials and incorporate the necessary cooling and heating systems into the plan of your building. Also be sure to design a building with a proper ventilation system. Ventilation prevents gas and pressure from building up within your structure and causing potential issues with combustion and fire.
To read more about planning your chemical storage building read our resource for planning HAZMAT storage.