The safe handling of flammable liquids is critically important to maintaining a protected work environment in your facility.
One mistake can be catastrophic, as was the case in 2020 when a West Virginia chemical facility erupted into flames after a 1,200-gallon metal dryer became over-pressurized. The blast killed one worker and injured three others.
The safe handling of disposal of flammable liquids is far from easy. While there are guidelines and rules put into place for every substance, there are several additional factors that must be considered as well when securing a flammable liquid. These include container types, ignition sources and more.
To avoid the risk of explosion and ensure the safety of your workers, here are some tips to keep in mind when handling flammable liquids.
Know A Flammable Liquid’s Flashpoint
When handling a flammable liquid, it’s important for workers to be aware of that liquid’s flashpoint. A flashpoint is “the lowest temperature at which a substance generates a sufficient amount of vapor to form a vapor or air mixture that can be ignited,” according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
A flashpoint helps determine to what extent you must control the environment around you when handling or storing a flammable liquid. Based on the NFPA guidelines, flammable liquids have a flashpoint below 100 degrees F, and combustible liquids have a flashpoint at or above 100 degrees F. The lower the flashpoint, the easier the flammable vapors will ignite.
For example, ethanol’s flashpoint is between 52 and 54 degrees F. Diesel, on the other hand, has a much higher flashpoint of up to 125 degrees F. These very different flashpoints can impact how workers handle each liquid.
Two important notes to keep in mind:
- There is a difference between flammable and combustible liquids. Flammable liquids will catch on fire and easily burn at normal working temperatures, whereas combustible liquids need heat before they can ignite.
- The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) classifies flammable liquids differently than the NFPA. Under the RCRA:
- Liquids that have a flashpoint of less than 140 degrees F are considered ignitable and are regulated with a D001 waste code.
- Liquids that have a flashpoint of greater than 140 degrees F are considered combustible and are not subject to federal regulations as flammable.
Keep Away From Possible Ignition Sources
When handling flammable liquids, be aware of any possible ignition sources in the vicinity. An ignition source is a vector that carries the possibility of setting the flammable liquid on fire. There are several types of ignition sources, some that are easily visible and others that aren’t.
- Sparks from electrical tools, welding tools and machinery
- Cigarettes and cigars
- Open flames from torches, pilot lights or heating units
- Hot surfaces, such as furnaces
- Embers or sparks from incinerators or a fire
- Static electricity
- Sparks from grinding or crushing other materials
Keep flammable liquid containers properly sealed to avoid vapors being released. When this occurs, volatile compounds can be released into the air, which are also capable of catching a spark and igniting.
Put Flammable Liquids In Correct Container Before Moving
A container is important not only for storage of flammable liquids but for transport as well. Following simple best practices, such as the following, can keep a space safe when handling flammable liquids.
- Always make sure a container is properly closed and there are no leaks.
- Only use containers approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
- Use the appropriate container material for the corresponding flammable liquid. In general, metal is most widely used unless it can adversely affect the container’s contents.
- Ensure the right container size is being used. Our article, What Is The Primary Hazard Associated With Flammable Liquids?, breaks down the classification system used to determine appropriate container sizes.
- Before handling, make sure there are up-to-date labels on the container. Labels should include information such as the start date of which the waste was first accumulated, the type of liquid, a Hazard Class 3 flammable (or other appropriate) logo, and contact information in the event of an emergency.
- When moving containers that hold flammable liquids, ensure they are grounded. This minimizes the risk for static electricity.
Create A Safe Space For Moving Flammable Liquids
When handling flammable liquids and moving them to another location in your facility, your workers are subject to additional dangers. Simply the act of moving hazardous materials can be dangerous since static electricity can cause sparks, which then become an ignition source for volatile chemicals.
Check to see if there are any ignition sources present prior to moving flammable liquids. Create a clear space and halt work when moving flammable liquids through an area, even if no ignition sources are present.
Create documentation for emergency responders and so you can refer back to it in the event of a mishap.
When transferring a chemical to a storage room, ensure that the storage area is safe and meets all regulations. In fact, most regulations require that companies keep flammable liquids in fire-proof storage cabinets. These cabinets must also feature other safety components, such as joints that are riveted, welded or tightened effectively, and a double walled construction that includes 1.5 inches of airspace.
When handling the chemical and placing it inside a cabinet, ensure that the container is tightly sealed to prevent any leaks or reactions with the air. Ensure that the storage cabinet meets any temperature guidelines as well.
Get Help To Reduce Risks
Keeping flammable liquids onsite that are no longer needed can be an invitation for an accident to occur. For companies that regularly use hazardous waste like flammable liquids, it’s important to have a partner who can both accept your waste and enhance your sustainability goals.
Temarry Recycling will recycle your solvents at its distillation facility through our closed loop recycling process. Here’s how it works:
- BTU organic solids are converted to steam through a waste to energy process.
- This steam is then used onsite as an energy source to power solvent recovery stills. Through solvent distillation, spent solvents are re-manufactured and sold back into industry for their original solvent properties.
- Usable water is extracted from industrial hazardous wastes during a water treatment process. This water is used for industrial needs onsite, including the waste to energy equipment and the cooling tower.
In addition to serving as a destination for your flammable liquids, Temarry’s recycling facilities offer a company several additional benefits as well.
Companies enhance their sustainability plans by preserving more resources. This helps ensure companies are less likely to rely on natural resources in the future.
West Coast companies decrease transportation costs. Some companies transport their flammable waste across the country to states like Kansas and Arkansas where fuel blending facilities are located. Temarry, on the other hand, has a Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility located just across the U.S.-Mexico border.
The proximity of this TSDF also reduces a company’s carbon footprint. Less fuel is needed for transportation.
While the safe handling of flammable liquids often focuses on best practices inside a facility, choosing the right destination for your waste also plays a significant role in securing a safe future for the environment and your business.