The proper storage of flammable liquids is essential to ensuring the safety of employees, the public and the environment.
In fact, the improper storage of flammable liquids is one of the most common reasons why an industrial fire occurs, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Even the simplest action can result in the most lethal consequences.
In November 2017, an explosion erupted at a cosmetics factory in New Windsor, New York, after an employee improperly transferred hexamethyl disiloxane from a drum to another container. During this transfer process, the employee wiped down the drum. This friction created static electricity, which caused the drum to erupt in flames.
More than two dozen employees were injured and one killed in the explosion. A second explosion that occurred while emergency personnel were fighting the blaze injured seven firefighters, two of which received treatment at a burn unit.
A federal investigation resulted in 11 violations that included two repeat violations for the improper transfer and storage of flammable liquids. OSHA fined the company more than $200,000.
As a company, you are responsible for the safety of your employees and ensuring all state and federal guidelines for the safe storage of flammable liquids are met. Here is a list of what NOT to do when putting safety protocols in place regarding the storage of any flammable liquids on site.
Do NOT Dismiss Flash Points
A liquid’s flashpoint plays a critical role in determining what type of risk flammable liquids pose.
The NFPA classification system is based on a liquid’s flash point. Knowing how the liquids you are storing in your facility are classified is important for ensuring you are meeting what is required for those particular liquids.
A flash point is defined as, “the lowest temperature at which a substance generates a sufficient amount of vapor to form a vapor/air mixture that can be ignited.” While flammable liquids have a flash point under 100 degrees F, combustible liquids have a flashpoint at or above 100 degrees F.
It is important to note, however, that the definition above is somewhat different from RCRA regulations. It is essential to be familiar with both and to comply with RCRA regulations as well.
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.
The lower the flash point, the easier the vapors of the liquid will ignite. This will impact certain storage requirements, from the location where flammable liquids can be stored to what can be stored in proximity to them. Under some guidelines, numbers may vary, so check with any federal or state guidelines that may apply to you.
You can read more about how flash points and boiling points determine how flammable liquids are classified in our overview of flammable liquids classes.
Do NOT Store Liquids In The Wrong Container Sizes
In the state of California, there are specific requirements for each sub-classification of flammable and combustible liquids. For example, there are requirements for the container size and quantities of flammable and combustible liquids found in a laboratory.
A glass container, for instance, can hold 1 pint of a Class IA liquid, but can hold 1 gallon of a Class II liquid. Typical Class IA liquids include methyl chloride and ethylene oxide. Typical Class II liquids include diesel fuel and pine tar.
There is one exception to this, however, to note. Approved containers and portable tanks that these hazardous materials arrive in from a supplier are acceptable as long as they are compliant with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements.
Make sure containers are regularly inspected as well. Look for leaks or deteriorating containers, as well as any spills or conditions that may cause concern.
Do NOT Store Liquids In Dangerous Locations
Even if flammable liquids are stored in the correct containers, those containers must be placed in locations where there is a low threat or no threat of danger.
Storage containers should always be out of the way and never blocking stairwells or exits. Rather, they should be located in safe, secure locations. In fact, most local regulations require that companies keep flammable liquids in fire-proof storage cabinets.
It is also important to keep flammable liquids away from any ignition sources. These can include sparks from electrical tools, open flames, incinerators, or as in the cosmetics factory case above, away from static electricity sources.
Containers should also be sealed so vapors are not released. Containers must also be grounded to minimize the risk for static electricity, which can spark a fire or explosion by raising the vapor temperature to above the flashpoint.
Once a liquid is placed inside a container, ensure all incompatible chemicals are stored separately and by hazard class codes.
Do NOT Forget Labels
Correctly storing flammable liquids in containers won’t mean much if those containers are not properly labeled.
Containers that hold waste flammable liquids should always be properly labeled. Labels should include:
- The start date of which the waste began accumulating
- The type of liquid
- A Hazard Class 3 flammable (or other appropriate) logo, which is a picture of a raging fire
- Contact information in the event an emergency occurs
Check with your state and local authorities to determine if any other information is required. It is also important to make sure all employees on site are trained in how to correctly fill out hazardous waste labels.
Do NOT Overlook Your Options For Disposal
When a company must move a flammable liquid from storage to disposal, completing this process safely is equally as important.
Each flammable liquid requires a unique disposal method depending on its hazardous waste disposal code. It is critical to choose a certified hazardous waste disposal company that will safely dispose of your waste, maintain a chain of custody and ensure your company meets all cradle to grave requirements.
Where you send this waste is important when it comes to fulfilling your sustainability plan. Companies like Temarry Recycling can take your plan one step further through its Closed Loop Recycling system that achieves zero waste.
As part of this Closed Loop system, Temarry recycles solvents at its solvent distillation unit. Here’s how the process works:
- The waste to energy process converts high BTU organic solids to steam to be used as energy onsite.
- The solvent distillation process uses the steam from the waste to energy process as energy to power the solvent recovery stills. Spent solvents are re-manufactured and sold back into industry for their original solvent properties.
- A water treatment process then extracts usable water from industrial hazardous wastes. This treated water is used onsite for industrial needs, including the waste to energy equipment and a cooling tower.
This zero waste option for many companies offers several benefits both in the short term and long term.
- Enhanced sustainability through preserving more resources. By preserving resources, your company is less likely to rely on natural resources in the future. Sustainable practices also can impact other areas of your operation by increasing efficiency and reducing costs. Your image can even improve in the public eye, and research shows consumers buy from sustainable companies.
- Decreased transportation, which can save costs and emissions. When you contract with a company to remove your flammable waste, many transporters will carry that waste across the country to states like Kansas and Arkansas for fuel blending. Temarry has a Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility just across the U.S.-Mexico border, allowing a company in the western United States that produces flammable waste to save money on transportation costs and reduce its carbon footprint thanks to a shorter travel distance.
- Gained economic incentives through grant, payment and loan programs. These programs are available through the state of California and are reserved for companies that improve the sustainability of their waste stream management.
Partnering with a waste disposal company that will routinely remove and dispose of your flammable liquid waste will also minimize the amount of time you need to store your waste on site while you search for disposal options.
You can read more about this Closed Loop process, which safely requires flammable liquids while returning valuable solvents back to industry, in our article, Solvent Distillation And The Energy Recovery Process Explained.