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How to Store Flammable Substances

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When it comes to flammable materials, safe storage is incredibly important Just because your flammable materials are out of sight, this doesn’t mean they should be out of mind. If stored incorrectly, a fire could ignite without your knowledge. Take the time to readdress the way you store your hazardous materials now, and see what changes you can make to create a safer working environment.

What is a flammable substance?

flammable liquidsFlammable substances are products that both ignite and burn easily. They can be in the form of a liquid, gas or solid. Whatever type of business you own, the chances are that you’ll use a flammable substance, even if it’s something as simple as a cleaning product. It’s important that you store these products properly to prevent a fire from igniting.

Check the label

Hazardous substances don’t just find their way into your premises – they should all arrive, clearly labelled. Look out for the flammable or highly flammable signs so you know to take care when storing them. Invest in some signs yourself, too. These can be placed on storage cabinets, and around the storage area, to warn visitors and staff members. [Images included – maybe put them in a row here]

Let’s go back to basics

In this situation, it’s helpful to go back to basics and look at the fire triangle. For a blaze to begin, three elements must come together at the same time: fuel, heat and oxygen. When storing your flammable liquids, bear the fire triangle in mind and keep these three elements separate. Make sure you don’t limit ventilation to your storage area though.

Think of the VICES of fire

By applying the following five principles, you can considerably reduce your risk of starting a workplace fire. Just remember though, these aren’t the only precautions you should be taking. Ventilation It’s important that there’s a good, flow of fresh air in your storage space. Good ventilation means that any flammable vapours that emanate from liquids or gases will be distilled and diffused. Ignition Have all obvious sources of ignition been removed from the storage area? Ignition sources can be sparks from electrical appliances, welding apparatuses or cutting tools. Then there are hot surfaces and heating appliances to consider. It’s also worth bearing in mind that from 2011 to 2012, the source of ignition in 1,200 non-domestic fires was smokers’ materials. Make sure you store your materials well away from your smoking area. Containment Make sure your substances are kept in appropriate containers that are kept secure. Never use a dented or damaged container. Always make sure you use a lidded container or canister is in a steady, upright position. Use a spillage catchment tray so that seepages and leaks won’t spread. Keep full cylinders and containers away from one another and restrain cylinders with a chain. Exchange Although it’s last on the list, it should probably be the first thing you consider. If it is possible, you should always exchange your flammable substance for a less flammable one. It’s even better if you can eradicate the use of flammable substances altogether. If there isn’t a replacement substance, try completing the task using a different technique altogether. Separation It’s crucial that you store flammable substances away from other supplies and working areas. Keep them separate from doors, exits and stairways. If you can, it’s also a good idea to put in a physical barrier, partition or wall.

Keep your cool

Flammable and combustible liquids will all have their own, unique flash point. Their flash point is the temperature at which their liquid vapours could catch fire if exposed to an ignition source. Make sure you check the flash point and store your liquid at the appropriate temperature. This often involves storing substances with a lower flash point separately, in a cooler place.

Storage cabinets

When kept inside a building, flammable liquids should always be put in a storage container. Only half the contents kept in each storage cabinet should be flammable.

Stricter guidelines for larger quantities

When working with larger quantities of flammable materials, the guidelines become more stringent. If you have large storage containers or cabinets, which are heavy, they need to be kept stable and stored directly on the ground, or on concrete, masonry piling or steel foundations. By storing them on a solid ground, you reduce the risk of each substance settling on different levels, which can cause problems. Large quantities of flammable materials should be stored in metal tanks or containers with emergency vents, too. It’s advisable store up to 5 litres in a glass container, up to 25 litres in a plastic container and up to 25 litres in a metal container.

Have fire extinguishers stored nearby

Keep a fire extinguisher within easy reach of combustible and flammable materials. The best extinguisher to opt for is a dry powder one, as you can use it to fight Class A, B and C fires. They’re often available in a range of sizes. If you opt for a large extinguisher, then you should also purchase a wheeled unit so that a single person can operate it in the event of a fire.

Portable storage

When you transfer your flammable substances from their original container to another, you will need to transfer them in portable quantities in a portable container. Portable containers should be:
  1. Vapour proof
  2. Made from metal or plastic
  3. Have welded seams
  4. Have pressure release valves
  5. Have spring closing lids with spout covers
  6. The consequences aren’t worth the risk
  Taking these precautions can seem quite tedious, but it’s important that we continue to take positive action in the prevention of fires. If correctly stored and correctly used, flammable substances shouldn’t be too much of a problem to your business. photo credit: Mr Thinktank via photopin cc
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