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Loss Control Insights

Don’t Let Flammable Liquids Send Your Business Up in Flames

The dangers of flammable liquids aren’t always top of mind for employers and their employees. Many don’t understand the dangers of storing these materials improperly and they don’t equate flammable with fire hazard.

This lack of knowledge can have serious consequences, resulting in fires, explosions and severe injuries. “I remember one extreme situation years ago, when a major disaster resulted when procedures for handling solvents were lax. Video of the resulting fire and explosions showed 55-gallon drums flying through the air,” EMC Senior Field Services Specialist Steve Davidson says. While not all flammable liquid emergencies are this dramatic, there can be severe consequences for carelessness or lack of proper handling and storage.

Where Dangers Lurk

Some of the dangers are not well understood by those who are in contact with flammable liquids. Here are a few hazards that are often overlooked:

  • Hydraulic powered equipment with flammable hydraulic fluids under pressure in the lines. If one of the lines goes bad, even a pinhole break allows hydraulic fluid under pressure to come out in a very fine spray. This fine spray is a fire hazard.
  • Flammable paint spraying in finishing operations creates a fire hazard. This can be even more dangerous when drying the paint. Whether drying in an oven, using a standard electric heater or even when just drying in the open air, vapors can escape into the air, making a fire a possibility.
  • Not bonding and grounding to avoid static electrical charges when dispensing flammable liquids. Liquid running through a pipe or spout causes friction, which can cause static electricity to flow out of the dispenser along with the liquid. Bonding and grounding a container can equalize the charge and avoid sparking and ignition.
  • Hot work. Special procedures are necessary to prevent ignition when welding, cutting, grinding, soldering or performing other hot work in areas where flammable liquids are stored or used in processes.

Preventing Disaster

Steve suggests taking these steps to prevent disasters from happening at your workplace.

  1. Do your homework. Because flammable liquids are used in a wide range of industries and for numerous tasks, it’s critical to know the dangers of the liquids you use and how to safely handle them. This info can be found on the safety data sheet. Make sure you read and understand the safety data sheets for the chemicals you work with, and ensure all workers also know the procedures and the dangers. EMC offers an online training module on flammable liquids.
  2. Understand the hazards. Handling recommendations may be different, depending on how the flammable liquid is used. Steve suggests referring to OSHA regulations to help you determine what your procedures should be.
  3. Examine storage areas. The safety data sheet can help you decide where and how to store flammable liquids in safe storage cabinets or storage rooms.

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