SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Flammables and Combustible Liquids
If you have kept up with the news that has been posted on the OSHA website (www.osha.gov) there has been a rash of fires happening in many facilities across the United States. Since the industrial revolution, the use of non-water-based chemicals has increased dramatically. Due to this increase, the potential exposure to the hazards associated with these chemicals has also increased. This includes hazards to worker health as well as property.
One potential hazard is flammability. To prevent fires, hazardous liquids need special precautions taken for their storage, handling and use. Both the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and the International Fire Code Institute (IFCI develops the Uniform Fire Codes) have developed guidelines for the safe storage and use of flammable and combustible liquids. These guidelines are not mandatory unless a federal, state or local authority chooses to use them. On the contrary, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed mandatory regulations for General Industry (29 CFR 1910.106), Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926.152) and Shipyard Industry (29 CFR 1915.36.
A Flammable Liquid is defined as any liquid having a flash point below 140° Fahrenheit and having a vapor pressure not exceeding 40 psia at 100° Fahrenheit. A liquid that has a flash point above 140° Fahrenheit and below 200° Fahrenheit is considered a Combustible Liquid. When using these liquids, use caution.
All Flammable and Combustible Liquids should be properly stored when not in use. When I am conducting safety inspections of my client’s locations, I often find these two liquids being stored together or not stored in a properly designed flammable cabinet. Please remember that OSHA does not allow these two chemicals to be stored together. To answer other questions on this issue, I have included the following most commonly asked questions.
Commonly Asked Questions
Q. When dispensing flammable liquids, do I have to use bonding and grounding wires?
A. According to 1910.106(e)(6)(ii), only Class I liquids are required to be bonded and grounded. However, for your own safety, bonding and grounding should always be used when dispensing flammable or combustible liquids.
Q. Am I required to have a flammable storage cabinet?
A. OSHA does not require the use of flammable storage cabinets unless the total amount of flammable and/or combustible liquids reaches a given amount. Local authorities and insurance companies may require the use of flammable storage cabinets in quantities less than that of OSHA.
Q. What is the difference between Type I and Type II safety cans?
A. A Type I safety can has one spout for both pouring and filling. A Type II safety can has two openings; one for pouring and one for filling.
Q. What is a flame arrestor, and what purpose does it serve?
A. A flame arrestor is a mesh or perforated metal insert within a flammable storage container (safety can, cabinet) which protects its contents from external flames or ignition. It also dissipates heat. Type I, Type II, disposal and specialty cans include a flame arrestor.
Q. Are flammable cabinets required to have mechanical ventilation?
A. OSHA does not normally require the use of mechanical ventilation. The NFPA recommends that cabinets not be mechanically ventilated, but if they are, they should be ventilated in accordance to NFPA 91 Exhaust Systems for Air Conveying of Materials.
Here are a few other safety guidelines that you should remember when working with or storing these liquids. Store and handle them in APPROVED containers and NEVER allow any source of ignition such as:
- Sparks from electrical tools and equipment.
- Sparks, arcs and hot metal surfaces from welding and cutting.
- Tobacco smoking.
- Open flames from portable torches and heating units, boilers, pilot lights, ovens and driers.
- Hot surfaces such as boilers, furnaces, steam pipes, electric lamps, hot plates, irons, hot ducts and flues, electric coils and hot bearings.
- Embers and sparks from incinerators, foundry cupolas, fireboxes and furnaces.
- Sparks from grinding and crushing operations.
- Sparks caused by static electricity from rotating belts, mixing operations or improper transfer of flammable or hot combustible liquids.
Ensure that all personal protective equipment (PPE) is used when handling or pouring these liquids into other containers. Safety cans should be used when storing these materials in the work area. When pouring the liquid into containers, ensure that you are bonding the cans together to eliminate the possibility of static electricity.
All employees should be properly trained in the OSHA regulations that are applicable to these chemicals and all containers must be marked to comply with the OSHA Hazard Communication Standards.
In closing, flammable and combustible liquids can be handled safely. If you follow the guidelines above no problems should arise.
Sources for More Information
National Fire Protection Association, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code Handbook, Fourth edition, ed. Robert Benedetti, 1991.
United States Office of the Federal Register National Archives and Records Administration, 29 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 1900 to 1910, (Washington: GPO 1994).
National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health, Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Washington: GPO 1994).
I would like to wish you and yours a very safe and happy holiday season and the most prosperous 2008. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have concerning this article or any safety question you may have.
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