Safety precautions for the storage of flammable liquids in the workplace
Apr 23, 2018

Safety precautions for the storage of flammable liquids in the workplace

Walter Ingles Walter Ingles

Flammable liquids are volatile substances that give off flammable vapours that will ignite in the presence of an ignition source. Due to their volatile nature and low flash point, flammable liquids pose many risks upon the people, property and environment of the workplace. Workplace incidents resulting from flammable liquids can have many negative implications upon the workplace. Some implications include:

  • Severe injury
  • Death
  • Property Damage
  • Decrease profitability due to down time
  • Environmental harm
  • Financial liability due to non-compliance

As there are many possible negative implications associated with flammable liquids, it is very important that you store and handle them in a way that minimises the risk that they have upon your organisation. Some safe practices for the storage and handling of flammable liquids are outlined below.

Storing flammable liquids in well ventilated areas

Flammable liquids give of a lot of flammable vapours. These flammable vapours are often the main cause of harm to people and property. If excessive quantities of flammable vapours are inhaled, it can cause intoxication, nausea and asphyxiation. Also if flammable vapours come into contact with an ignition source or mix with incompatible chemicals, it can result in severe fires.

To reduce these risks, it is important to store your flammable liquids in a well ventilated area. A well ventilated area will reduce the concentration of the flammable vapours in the air and minimise the risk of fire and asphyxiation. A well ventilated area can be an outdoor area or in a indoor location that is fitted with an intrinsically safe ventilation system.

Good housekeeping practices  

When storing flammable liquids in the workplace, it is very important that you carry out ongoing maintenance and other practices that facilitate safe storage of flammable liquids. One important housekeeping practice is to ensure that flammable liquids are always packaged safely. Flammable liquids storage containers and drums must be in good condition and labeled correctly. Correct labeling allows workers to identify the risks associated with the substance. This allows them to store flammable liquids in a safe location which is away from ignition sources and incompatible chemicals. If any flammable liquids drums become damaged, they  must be decommissioned and replaced instantly. The lids of all flammable liquids containers must always be fastened when the flammable liquids are not being used. This reduces the amount of flammable vapours that are dispersed into the workplace.

Availability of Safety Data Sheets

When flammable liquids are used in the workplace, a copy of the safety data sheets for each substance must be kept close to the area where the flammable liquids are being stored. Safety data sheets are documents that chemical manufacturers develop to accompany the use of their hazardous chemicals. These documents provide critical information about the hazardous chemical including:

  • The chemicals identity
  • Health and physical hazards
  • Storage and handling requirements
  • Emergency procedures

This information informs workers of the risks associated with flammable liquids which allows them to store and handle them in a safe and compliant manner. It is best to store safety data sheets in a document storage box that can be mounted on the side of the flammable liquids storage cabinet.  

Compliant flammable storage cabinet

To achieve the lowest level of risk, flammable liquids must always be stored in a flammable liquids storage cabinet. A safety cabinet used for the storage of flammable liquids must meet the requirements of the Australian Standards. The Australian Standard that outlines the requirements for the storage of flammable liquids in AS1940. A compliant flammable cabinet must have a dual skinned construction, provision for ventilation, perforated shelves, self-closing doors and a spill containment sump. The insulated construction stops the flammable liquids within the cabinet from exploding in the event of a fire, which allows workers to escape. The spill containment sump contains any spills that may occur within the cabinet and the ventilation provision allows the cabinet to be ventilated if the concentration of the flammable vapours exceeds the workplace exposure standards.

Personal Protective Equipment

When flammable liquids are used in the workplace, it is a good practice to use personal protective equipment. Some personal protective equipment that can be necessary include; respiratory equipment, gloves and safety specs. Flammable liquids give off a lot of flammable vapours and respiratory equipment allows you to avoid the risk of asphyxiation and nausea. Most flammable liquids are toxic and gloves and safety specs will reduce the risk of flammable liquids being absorbed into your skin. If flammable liquids come into contact with your eyes, it will cause a lot of irritation. Flammable liquids must be washed out of your eyes instantly to avoid long term injuries. Personal protective equipment should always be stored in a highly visible PPE cabinet that is located next to the flammable liquids storage facility.

Next Steps

Flammable liquids pose many risks upon the people and property of your organisation. To minimise these risks, it’s important to identify where they exist and assess the severity and the likelihood of them occurring. This data will allow you to implement effective controls to reduce the risks associated with flammable liquids. Some of the effective controls have been outlined above. If you would like more information on how to reduce the risks associated with flammable liquids, download our FREE eBook by clicking on the image below.

How to reduce the risk of flammable liquids in the workplace

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Adviser. He loves helping business reduce the risk that Dangerous Goods pose upon their employees, property and the environment through safe and compliant dangerous goods storage solutions.

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