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Flammable chemicals are a part of industry, but some of these materials are in such regular rotation that their risk can be underappreciated.

The impacts of improper flammable chemical storage and handling on people and the environment are devastating. In 2020, a worker at a chemical company in Gateshead spent eight days on life support and was left with severe scarring, blindness, hearing damage, and other tissue damage after an explosion at his workplace. His employer failed to use a chemical extraction system to remove the vapours in addition to allowing for an ineffective electrical earth of the bulk bag.

The regulation of flammable materials comes from the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR), which produced an Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) to help navigate compliance. Flammable liquids are also covered by the COSHH requirements.

A flammable material can take the form of a liquid, aerosol, gas, dust, or solid.

It’s important to remember that although a material is flammable, this is likely not its only hazardous property. Flammable liquids form vapours, which as we’ve seen can also provide a personnel safety risk in addition to the risk of ignition.

To understand the risk of a flammable liquid, you must know its flash point. A flash point is the lowest temperature at which a flammable liquid will emit enough vapours to ignite when an ignition source is present.

In the UK, a liquid is a flammable liquid when it has a flashpoint of 60 degrees Celsius or below. An example is petrol, which has a flash point of -43 degrees Celsius.

What are the Most Common Flammable Chemicals?

Do you have flammable chemicals on your site? The answer is likely yes, even if you aren’t in a high-risk industry like chemical manufacturing or the oil and gas industry.

Some of the most common flammable liquids include:

  • Acetone
  • Adhesives
  • Alcohols
  • Benzene
  • Diesel
  • Lube oil
  • Paint thinner
  • Petrol
  • Turpentine
  • Xylene

All of these chemicals can be carefully managed in a normal setting with the right chemical safety management plan and when stored in the correct conditions.

How to Store Flammable Chemicals Safely

To choose the correct storage for your chemicals, you will refer to the chemical safety data sheet (SDS) and the DSEAR and COSHH regulations. Meeting and exceeding these guidelines and regulations will help you ensure that you are not only storing flammable materials correctly but that you have a strong risk management plan that will help you limit the impact of a potential chemical spill or leak.

Safe chemical storage means both choosing the correct storage containers and segregating chemicals that may react with one another. However, meeting DSEAR and COSHH regulations also requires you to:

  • Store only minimum quantities of flammable chemicals indoors in working areas
    • DSEAR Regulation 5 requires you to justify the need to store a flammable liquid in a working area. It is recommended that you store no more than 50 litres or enough for one production shift indoors in a suitable Flammables Safety Cabinet.
  • Storage areas must feature suitable cabinets or bins
    • As a rule, all flammable liquids must be stored in fire-resistant containers or bins. Internal flammables cabinets are available with up to 90 minutes fire protection. In the event of fire this allows enough time for personnel to exit safely and for fire fighters to begin tackling the fire.
  • Temperature-controlled storage must be used where required
    • Storing liquids like petrol, acetone, and benzene all have flash points below 0 degrees Celsius and thus consideration should be given to the temperatures they are stored at and whether temperature control is required.
  • Flammable Vapours
  • Reduce risk of ignition
    • Any electrical equipment used where flammable vapours may occur should be ATEX rated, so that it will not ignite flammable vapours.

Work with Safety Storage Systems

Flammable materials are all around us, but many of the flammable liquids and gases around us require more than just closed containers to prevent fires and explosions. Segregation, safe storage, temperature control, extraction, and Bunding all work together with the correct containers to limit the risk and effects of a chemical spill.

At Safety Storage Systems, we are experts in storing flammable materials as well as hazardous materials of all types. Get in touch to learn more about COSHH chemical storage requirements as well as custom chemical storage systems for your industry.