The presence of flammable liquids and chemicals in the workplace is a necessary but potentially dangerous reality for many U.K. businesses. Even strict adherence to established regulations, such as DSEAR and HS(G)140 cannot guarantee total workplace safety.
Risks can be minimised, however, by taking appropriate steps to ensure proper handling and storage of flammable liquids. The following are five important steps to take to ensure safe storage and handling of flammable chemicals and liquids.
1. Avoid Ignition Sources
Flammable liquids and chemicals should not be stored, opened or used in close proximity to any potential ignition sources. Ignition sources can be avoided with clever workspace planning and diligent safety protocols. Some essential ignition sources to eliminate from the workplace or keep well clear of flammable liquids include:
- Sparks from electrical tools and equipment
- Sparks, arcs and hot metal surfaces from welding or cutting
- Open flames from portable torches and heating units, boilers, pilot lights, ovens and dryers
- Hot surfaces, such as boilers, furnaces, steam pipes, electric lamps, hot plates, irons, hot ducts and flues, electric coils and hot bearings
- Embers or sparks from incinerators, fireboxes and furnaces
- Sparks from grinding or crushing
- Sparks caused by static electricity from rotating belts, mixing or improper transfer of flammable liquids
- Tobacco smoking
2. Dispense Flammable Liquids With Care
It is imperative to take extra caution when dispensing flammable liquids or transferring them from one container to another in the workplace. When dispensing flammable liquids, note the following key points:
- Dispense from only one container at a time and ensure containers are closed after dispensing to contain any hazardous vapours and avoid accidental spills.
- Never dispense flammable or combustible liquids near any ignition sources, especially those highlighted in the point above.
- Always check that metal containers are bonded and grounded when dispensing.
- Never transfer liquids by pressurising their shipping containers with air. The pressure can damage some drums and barrels, or even create a flammable atmosphere inside the container.
3. Ensure Appropriate Ventilation
Flammable vapours pose a risk of fire and health problems for workers, so effectively removing them from the workspace is critical. The type of ventilation needed will vary depending on the kind and amount of flammable liquid or chemical, how it is being used and the size and layout of the work area. Appropriate ventilation systems can include exhaust fans, hoods and ducts—a formal assessment of the use, volume and storage of flammable liquids can determine if existing ventilation is sufficient.
4. Dispose of Flammable Waste Materials Properly
When disposing of waste flammable and combustible liquids, they should be treated in the same way as unused flammable liquids:
- Waste flammable liquids should be stored in clean drums of compatible material, vented, grounded and bonded similarly to their dispensing drums.
- Waste containers and their contents should be clearly labelled and segregated and stored as per U.K. regulations.
- Cloth, paper and other solid materials soaked with flammable liquids should be placed in approved metal waste disposal containers with self-closing lids. These containers should be emptied daily to reduce the risk of spontaneous combustion.
- Take caution with “empty” flammable liquid containers, as the vapour from even just 14ml of flammable fluid is enough to create an explosive atmosphere in a typical 180-litre drum.
- Never pour any waste flammable liquids down drains. Dispose of them through hazardous waste disposal companies and according to relevant environmental laws, as advised by local authorities.
5. Use Approved, Purpose-Built Containers & Storage Units
The use of approved, properly labelled flammable storage units containers can dramatically decrease the fire and health risks associated with flammable or combustible liquids. As a general rule, do not use plastic or glass containers to store flammable liquids, unless a metal storage container would affect the required purity or the liquid would cause excessive corrosion of the metal container.
Flammable liquids should be stored in purpose built flammable storage units. Only trained, authorised people should be permitted to enter flammable storage areas, and the level of flammable materials stored should be kept to an operational minimum.
For advice or assistance on the safe storage of flammable liquids and chemicals, contact the expert team at Safety Storage Systems U.K. We can help assess your needs and recommend a flammables storage solution that’s right for you.