What Grandma learned from Benjamin Franklin about safe storage

Familiarity can breed contempt when it comes to storing hazardous substances in the workplace. Doing it right requires not only the right equipment, but also the right understanding of the risks involved by everyone on the premises. Safety Storage Centre explains…

A place for everything, and everything in its place; that’s what Grandma always used to say. Well, mine did, at least. We tend to think of Grandmas as the fount of all wisdom, and so often they are, but in this instance she’d pinched the thought from that great 18th-century American innovator Benjamin Franklin.

It was a piece of wisdom Franklin needed; his life was busier than most. He was an author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, and diplomat. His life would have been chaos if he hadn’t been tidy!

Grandma was encouraging tidiness so her house didn’t look a mess – but it’s a trait that, on a serious note, helps us to keep modern workplaces safe.

‘Things’ in our lives are more numerous than they were in Franklin’s lifetime 300 years ago (and Grandma’s, much more recently). We have inventions neither of them could have imagined, and that includes the dangerous substances forming part of our everyday lives.

Storing hazardous substances safely

Because they’re so familiar, we can forget just how dangerous some of these substances are when they are mishandled or stored incorrectly. This is where we should recall the ‘place for everything’ thought, because part of preventing harm is the way, and the place, these substances are stored.

It starts with the immediate container for any substance, which should never be decanted into another container. We’ve all read the stories about children drinking from pop bottles in to which toxic liquids have been poured – and the horrible consequences. Original bottles and drums have all manner of important warning information on them, which should stay with the contents. That’s why the activity in our picture is wrong on so many levels. Storing drinking water in a petrol can is as foolhardy as storing fuel in a lemonade bottle, and should never be done.

Then where should these substances be kept?

Examination of the COSHH regulations is a good place to start. COSHH stands for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, and is legislation enacted in 1988 and revised in 2002. COSHH essentials is a guide produced by the Health and Safety Executive, and includes information about safe practices for storing hazardous substances in all facilities, but especially where vulnerable people such as children the elderly and adults with learning difficulties could conceivably come into contact with them.

The counter to these dangers is the use of purpose-designed storage for hazardous substances in the workplace – COSHH cabinets

Hazardous Chemicals

What is a COSHH cabinet?

COSHH cabinets contain hazardous substances in the workplace in two ways. Firstly, they are robust and lockable, to prevent unauthorized people from getting at the chemicals inside, and secondly, their design includes spill containment to prevent the chemicals from getting out. Careful control of the keys ensures that only responsible people have access to the contents.

The cabinets are perfect for use in a multitude of diverse locations where storing hazardous substances in the workplace is unavoidable – think of the cleaning products needed in every school, for example.

Which COSHH cabinet?

Deciding on which COSHH cabinet – or indeed any kind of safe storage cabinet – is about what you need to store, and how much of them there are. The volumes of some substances, of course, are limited by rules and regulations that describe safe practices for storing hazardous substances.

More information about what you want to store is to be found in the HSE information mentioned above, the DSEAR 2002 regulations, or the HSG51 guidance about storage of flammable liquids. Look out for spill containment capability, and decide if the cabinet you need should be free-standing, wall mounted, or on wheels, capable of being taken to the location in which the substances inside are to be used. There are circumstances in which any of these would be the most appropriate.

What else do I need to do?

Substances sealed in their original containers pose little or no danger. It’s only when they are put in the wrong place or used in the wrong way that the danger levels increase, and that’s down to people.

Every individual’s behaviour can turn a safely stored substance into a hazard, so it’s important that everyone has some degree of training. At its most basic level it’s about awareness that the substances are there, and that they should be avoided. (In a school, for example, pupils just need to know that the caretaker’s cupboard is out of bounds and that they’re not allowed in).

Training will be more for people who need to work with the substances. They’ll need to know the correct method of handling them, what personal protective clothing must be worn, and where they must be used (in a fume cupboard, perhaps, or at least a well-ventilated space). They’ll also need to know where they can be stored, and with what other substances – if they’re allowed to be stored with anything else at all.

So it seems Ben Franklin and Grandma were right after all. Everything does have a place, and should be kept in it, for everyone’s safety.

How will you store your family history?

If the families of the tens of thousands of young men who died in the horrors of WW1 could have known how the nation would have felt this month, 100 years after the start of the conflict, I wonder if they would have thought any differently about how to care for the mementoes left behind?

WW1 Medals In the intervening century, how many letters, diaries and personal effects have been lost because someone didn’t know how important they would be to their descendants and others trying to bridge the gap in time to imagine what life was like on that day in August 1914 when WW1 began, and the years that followed?

It’s a question that is impossible to answer today, but it begs another: what should we do now to store facets of our own lives that might interest future generations? How can we tell the stories and family histories to our own grandchildren’s children a further 100 years down the line?

The default answer would probably include the phrase ‘on the computer’ – but that’s arguably less durable at the beginning of the 21st century than the solutions available in the early 20th. How many of us remember floppy discs? Even CDs are getting past their sell-by date, and Windows XP is obsolete. Who knows what safety storage solutions will be available in 2114, making what we think of as state-of-the-art today look Victorian by comparison.

No, by far the best way is to commit today’s stories to paper, including as much detail as possible, to let future generations know what was important to you and your family – and store them properly. These stories form a social canvas, adding colour and texture to the hard facts of history, and giving future generations a much better picture of life now.

With the physical items, these can form a family archive, stored together in a suitable container resistant to fire and flood. Our family’s is in what we call the ‘black tin box’. It’s an old deed box which has been in the family for years, and contains all sorts of items with little or no monetary value, but intense sentimental attachment and interest. There is the mortgage agreement for my grandparents’ first house, bought as a new build just weeks before WW2 for less than £700; parents’ school reports, family jewellery, certificates, photographs; the list goes on.

History matters. The trouble is, we often don’t realise how much it matters until we don’t have it any more, by which time it’s too late. Take action now.

Van vaults will defy the thief and protect your valuable tools

We’ve all read the sticker on the rear door of white vans up and down the country: ‘No tools are stored in this vehicle overnight’ – but the amount of equipment in question means it’s as likely as not that the sticker isn’t telling the whole truth…

After a hard day at work, removing a great many valuable pieces of equipment, only to have to re-load them again the following morning, adds time and the unwelcome need for extra effort at both ends of the working day.

But the tools of so many trades in the 21st century are such that they can no longer be carried in a simple canvas hold all. Furthermore, they are expensive to buy and replace, and often represent the viability of the business. The solution is to invest in tool vaults to fit inside your van, allowing valuables to be locked away as safe as they would be in a building.

Everything in our range of effective and low-cost secure vehicle storageVan Vault products is made from the highest-quality materials. There are a number of options available to suit all sorts of applications. Many of them are available with free delivery, and can be with you in a matter of a few days.

Your Holiday Security Essentials

Although the fickle weather is again contradicting the seasons, our great British summer and the holiday season is barely a week away. Whether you are loading up the car or heading for the airport make sure you have left your home safe from intruders by taking sensible precautions.
Our community police liaison officer and the neighbourhood watch have issued some good advice to minimise the risks both home and away. Go through the checklist before you travel.

191a – Cancel newspapers, milk and any other regular deliveries.

– Turn off the water supply and unplug all but essential electrical appliances.

– If you have an intruder alarm make sure you activate it before you travel. Preferably leave the alarm activation code and a house key with someone near to your home who you trust in case of emergencies.

– Lock the windows

– Let someone know you itinerary and give a contact number. You can also inform the police when you are away or if you have one, inform your Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator.

– Put valuables in a safe place preferably in a home safe with bolt down capability or in a good quality strongbox again fixed to a solid structure and out of sight. Move any other valuables such as ornaments out of plain sight.

– Secure any outbuildings with quality locks or padlocks and preferably lock expensive tools and equipment away in a secure steel tool chest or cabinet.

– Don’t take expensive jewellery on holiday if at all possible. If you must have your bling with you then hire a safe deposit box at your resort accommodation. You should also check your travel insurance cover is adequate.

– Carry as little cash as you can. The prepaid currency cards are a practical alternative and can be used like any other debit card, including making cash withdrawals from foreign ATM’s. You can usually get a better exchange rate into the bargain.

– If travelling by car don’t leave valuable in plain sight, particularly when the vehicle is unattended. Opportunist thefts from vehicles in service stations are common so lock valuables in the boot or glove compartment.

– Finally make sure you have the contact numbers should an emergency arise whilst you are away i.e. Insurance Help Line, Bank and Credit Card provider, Holiday Accommodation and Flight Provider.
Have a happy and relaxed holiday