Transporting chemicals

There is often a need to move chemicals from room to room or between buildings. Hand-carrying hazardous chemicals can introduce a variety of ways that you, others, or the environment can be exposed. It is essential to transport chemicals properly in order to transport them safely. Tips for safe transport include:

  1. Carry bottles or jars in trays or bottle carriers instead of by hand—they are less likely to become broken, and the tray/carrier provides secondary containment.
  2. If using trays, push the tray on a laboratory cart instead of carrying it. Suppose you trip while executing the carry? A carried tray would fall and the contents would leak out.
  3. According to the National Academy of Sciences, carts used to transport chemicals should have at least a 2-inch lip to provide adequate containment.
  4. Do not crowd the bottle carrier or tray—trying to put two bottles in a single-bottle carrier or overloading the tray. This makes it more likely something will fall out.
  5. Line the bottom of the tray or carrier with vermiculite or a spill-absorbent pad to help absorb minor leaks.
  6. Bear in mind that some chemicals rapidly degrade or even explode in the presence of strong temperature changes or bright sunlight. Peroxide-forming chemicals are notorious for this if they have built up sufficient hazardous peroxides.
  7. Do not transport incompatible chemicals (e.g., acids and bases) together in the same tray or carrier.
  8. If moving chemicals further than the next lab, bring spill-management supplies along—the same spill kit you would use in your lab. Your quick action to clean up a spill can prevent a complex and expensive response by the JHU hazardous materials team or by the Baltimore Fire Department.
  9. When moving chemicals, it is a good time to verify that they have proper labeling: full chemical name, in English, is required (e.g., “isopropyl alcohol” instead of “IPA”). If there is not sufficient space to do this, use abbreviations and carry a key to the abbreviations with you to give to the new lab. Common chemical names are sufficient; full IUPAC nomenclature is not necessary.
  10. If the chemicals you are moving are heat-sensitive, package them in a box with a cold pack to maintain quality. If the chemicals may become shock-sensitive, consult with the Department of Health, Safety, and Environment before the move.