The founders of Safety Storage came up with the idea as a better way to manage hazardous materials, flammable liquids, and municipal waste. Their original business was in hauling the materials off site. But frequent and costly trips led to the idea of storing materials on site safely to support a more affordable removal plan. Far from putting themselves out of business, the idea spurred a shift into construction of pre-engineered hazardous materials storage buildings that have changed the way hazmat is managed.
That idea came back in 1982 and the company has expanded since, today producing about 500 prefabricated hazardous material storage buildings each year. Thousands of Safety Storage units are in service throughout all 50 states, in the military, industry and government, and in countries worldwide.
“Customers need a safe place to store the material. The primary requirements for safety are secondary containment – a place to catch any spill – and fire code requirements,” said Dean Alcott, national sales manager. “With that in mind, we developed a line of buildings and launched this industry right along with the company.”
Applications for the units also include safe storage of materials used in production so that pharmaceutical and other manufacturers can have a ready supply to meet production demands.
The units house chemicals, flammables, toxic and hazardous materials to protect workers, the environment and perhaps most notably to meet compliance with stringent international, federal, state and local environmental codes. In fact, with expertise in flammables, non-flammables, combustibles, solvents, paints, acids, corrosives, pesticides, and caustics, the company was instrumental in developing many of the fire and safety codes in place today.
“The product itself is a fairly simple metal, prefabricated building. However, when you take into consideration the fire rating and many accessories driven by local, state and federal code requirements, the entire product becomes quite complicated,” explained Alcott. “Quite often these buildings have multiple levels of review and sign off before they are approved for use.”
The complexity of environmental laws has led many customers to seek a Safety Storage solution for waste or manufacturing applications.
“If someone is storing flammable material or other hazardous chemical it is likely that they have one or more regulatory agencies breathing down their necks. They are forced to develop a plan for storage, transport and disposal of these items. By storing material they are ensured the most cost effective and efficient transport possible. By working with a hazmat specialist like Safety Storage they’re ensured that the hazmat storage component of their plan is in compliance,” Alcott said.
NATIONWIDE COVERAGE, INTERNATIONAL USE
About a dozen companies compete in the hazmat building industry. Many focus on less challenging applications such as storing pesticides at golf courses. However, Safety Storage is more serious, focusing on heavy industry and U.S. military needs.
“We have drifted away from the standard cookie-cutter building into engineered solutions. Our primary focus is custom engineered solutions and being the most code compliant company in the industry,” Alcott said. “We are more interested in the pharmaceutical company with material storage and dispensing requirements right next to their important process facilities.”
In 1998, Safety Storage of Hollister, Calif. merged with Haz-Stor of Charleston, Ill. to form the nation’s leading maker of pre-engineered hazardous materials storage buildings, doing business as Safety Storage, Inc. Having two plants and a full geographic spread is a significant competitive advantage.
“We are about the only company with a nationwide sales force of independent manufacturers’ reps,” Alcott explained. “As you can imagine, where you are trying to meet local codes and requirements it is a large advantage for us to have someone in the field.”
The company’s reps are also keenly aware of which local contractors can be entrusted with installation, further local knowledge that is a great value-added of for the company and its customers.
What are the main applications for Safety Storage units? Flammable liquid storage tops the list of materials including stockpiling fuel for U.S. military installations. These put the company’s buildings in operation in the U.S. and around the world.
“Right now, business is driven through the military with strong spending in states on National Guard facilities, and overseas with a need for environmental protection,” Alcott said. “We are trying to leave Iraq, for example, better than we found it and our military, with Safety Storage’s help, is providing state-of-the-art storage in a host country that may not even have comprehensive environmental rules.”
Another government clientele familiar to most Americans is the local municipality that collects and disposes of household hazardous waste including corrosives such as batteries, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including paints; pesticides, poisons, toxins and other materials that towns and cities need to control and dispose of properly.
Industrial applications include storage of alcohol, a major component in pharmaceutical manufacturing.
A SELF-CONTAINED SOLUTION
Pre-engineered, prefabricated, relocatable Safety Storage® buildings offer everything safety and environmental engineers and technicians, regulators, fire marshals and company owners want in fire protection, safe storage and hazardous material workspace solutions. Code-compliant manufactured buildings are designed to meet OSHA, EPA, local fire safety codes, hazmat regulations and good manufacturing practices. Units are built with pre-engineered wiring, lighting, plumbing, explosion-proof HVAC and specialty accessories. The buildings are made of durable, rugged non-combustible steel. Custom configured buildings meet specific usage and space requirements and site aesthetic goals.
In addition to steel construction, gypsum dry wall is added to gain a fire rating and protect the environment around the building or the contents.
“Advanced door design is a big part of material handling,” Alcott added. “Once we give them the proper box, how do they get the material in and out of the box? And we very often must allow for mixing inside, or pumping through the wall. It gets very involved.”
In addition to raised doors, the units feature a seven-inch containment sump for secondary containment in case of a spill. The buildings are shipped on flatbeds through a private contractor fleet.
“Our goal when we ship is to have as little on-site work as possible. Customers provide a concrete slab and crane; they need to bolt it to the pad and make an electrical connection, then arm the fire suppression. So basically, bolt it down, put power to it, and it’s ready to go.”
The company’s experienced local sales force answers questions, meets on-site with all interested parties, and offers knowledge and assistance during building design and on-site setup.
As if the need to meet local code requirements were not enough to encourage sales, a major driver for the company’s offerings are news reports of what can happen in the absence of proper hazardous materials storage.
“Every now and then you see a big industrial explosion or fire,” cautioned Alcott. “Once the customer realizes its need they have several choices: One is to change their storage or treatment plan so they have less material on site. There are thresholds, so once you get flammable material below a certain amount, codes may not worry about it. Another choice is to build their own facility using the code guidelines, building firewalls, installing explosion-proof ventilation, and proper fire suppression. The other choice is to jump into our realm of pre-engineered hazardous material storage buildings where we drop a completely code-compliant building on to their facility.”
Of course, meeting regulatory burden is another driver for customers to elect a Safety Storage solution. The company has already submitted its engineer-stamped plans, which are reviewed and approved in 35 states.
“Customers can avoid a lot of headaches if they don’t know all the codes,” Alcott said.
Today’s industrial concerns with protecting the environment spur a lot of business for Safety Storage. However, the ecofriendly trend can also present challenges for the company.
“Of course, meeting regulatory burden is another reason for customers to elect a Safety Storage solution. About 35 states currently require a state review of each and every building that ships into their state. Safety Storage will provide the engineered package that our customers need to submit to the state,” said Alcott. “If a customer is unfamiliar with hazmat storage codes and requirements they can save a lot of headaches by working with a company that deals with it every day. It works against us, but we are also offering more sustainable options like solar panels, low VOC paints, and explosion-proof fluorescent lights.”
“People are trying to get away from hazardous waste and that limits one market. We are trying to look at other, newer markets.”