Your shelving is all wrong – button up your lips.

Storing chemicals are never fun and I try to avoid having chemicals on hand at all costs. Even in my house, you won’t find but a few of the basic cleaning supplies.  But  when it comes to schools, it is a necessary evil to have chemicals on hand for science experiments and that is  fine, as long as you are managing them properly.  One of the first things I look at is where are these chemicals being stored and on what type of shelving.  It’s always seems to surprise people when I tell them that their shelves need lips.

Really! Lips?

It is a generally accepted principle in California that shelves should have lips and/or guard strip to prevent objects from falling off the shelf during earthquakes. It is referenced in the California Science Safety Hanrdbook, both the 1999 and 2012 edition to be exact.  These are typically recommendations in publications like the Science Safety Handbook and the SB1122 Nonstructural Earthquake Hazards in California. So if it is just a recommendation why do we need to follow it?

Well most recommendations are based on some long storied history that is rooted in some ill forgotten regulation and the same holds true for lips.  And that regulation is  Title 24, Part 9, Section 2703.9.9 (Fire Code).


Title 24, Part 9, Section 2703.9.9 Shelf storage. Shelving shall be of substantial construction, and shall be braced and anchored in accordance with the seismic design requirements of the California Building Code for the seismic zone in which the material is located. Shelving shall be treated, coated or constructed of materials that are compatible with the hazardous materials stored. Shelves shall be provided with a lip or guard when used for the storage of individual containers.


We could also add CA Code of regulations Title 8, Section 5191 (Cal OSHA) as it has sections on work practices and measures employed to keep workers safe. While the OSHA code does not specifically address lips, it is well know that OSHA will cite the General Duty Clause as frequently as they can.


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