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Working Safely With Flammable Liquids

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Working Safely With Flammable Liquids

Flammable and combustible liquids are present in many products you may use during the working day. Petrol, diesel fuel, and many common products such as solvents, thinners, cleaners, adhesives, paints, waxes and polishes may be highly flammable or combustible. And if used or stored improperly, these types of liquids can cause serious injury or death to employees or customers.

To understand the dangers of flammable and combustible liquids, it is important to know that it is the vapour, not the liquid that burns. For instance, an explosion can occur when an employee drains a petrol tank on a company delivery vehicle and begins repairs involving welding on the tank. Although the tank is empty, it contains petrol vapours. If the vapour concentration is within the explosive range and a source of ignition is introduced, an explosion can occur, easily injuring the worker, co-workers or customers.

Staying Safe

The following work practices must be followed when handling flammable and combustible liquids:

  • Do not use liquids that can ignite at less than 38 degrees Celsius around open flames or other ignition sources
  • All containers must be properly labelled and marked with the complete chemical name.
  • All containers must be metal, sealed with a cap or lid, and not damaged or leaking.
  • Don’t store flammable liquid containers in any areas accessible to customers. Never store containers next to exits, aisles, stairways or doors—even for a brief time. Flammable containers may also not be placed where they can interfere with the exit from an area or building in an emergency situation.
  • Dispense flammable and combustible liquids with approved pump or metal self-closing taps only.
  • Do not transfer liquid unless an employee who is trained to stop the transfer in the event of a spill is present.
  • When transferring flammable liquids from one container to another, the two containers must be connected by a conducting wire and one container must be earthed.
  • Remember that welding, cooking, flame cutting and soldering, and other flame-, heat- or spark-producing work is not allowed within 7.5 metres of liquid use and storage areas.
  • Never smoke in storage and handling areas of combustible and flammable liquids, or in a 7.5-metre radius around these areas.
  • Maintain access to fire extinguishers and other emergency response equipment at all times. At least one fire extinguisher must be located within 3 metres of any flammable and/or combustible liquid storage area, and within 15 metres of a flammable liquid use area.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the safe handling of these liquids, contact your supervisor.

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