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The Importance of Correctly Storing Flammable Liquid and Chemicals in the Workplace

Government Guidelines

It is the responsibility of the business owner or duty holder to ensure that any quantities of flammable liquids are stored correctly in the workplace. The legislation that controls this is set out in The Dangerous Substances and Atmospheres Regulation 2002, which was created by the UK's Health and Safety Executive. It even provides guidelines for contingency plans and provisions to minimise the damage created by an emergency situation, such as a fire or explosion, involving such flammable substances.

Workplace Measures

According to the HSE, there are a number of requirements that any workplace where flammable chemicals and fuel are to be used must fulfil. These include stipulations for adequate ventilation, which makes sure that the quality of the air within any premises is always of breathable quality. This is a very important consideration especially when dealing with flammable solvents and organic compounds. Emergency exits are also covered, with regulation stating that any workplace which deals with highly flammable liquids must have two clearly labelled exits, enabling staff to quickly vacate any room or area in the event of an accident.

Containers

All flammable liquids need to be stored in the appropriate containers or bottles, with secure lids. These should allow some room for the expansion of the contents, the size of which may vary with the ambient temperature. Containers should also have appropriate labelling for their contents, including the date of purchase, key risks and any hazard stickers. It's also important to ensure that there is enough space within your storage arrangements for all containers to be stored without clutter in a tidy fashion, which can help minimise dangerous breakages.

Staff Awareness

It is essential to ensure that any staff who are tasked with using or storing fuel and other dangerous flammable chemicals, are fully trained and knowledgeable when it comes to the properties of these substances and liquids. Some liquids may react with a certain type of container for example, or you may have two compounds that are used in a laboratory that will react dangerously if they come into contact together. By ensuring all workers are well informed about the substances with which they're dealing, accidents on the work floor can be greatly reduced.

Flammable Liquid Storage

Flammable liquids should always be stored away from oxidising agents and when multiple types of flammable substances are stored together, then all materials should be considered to be the same as the material with the lowest flashpoint, in a specially designated lockable storage cupboard. This should be appropriately labelled with the correct symbols. It is also advisable to have a set procedure that deals with locking any storage cabinet or bin in the event of an incident.

Fire-Proofing

In a workplace where lots of flammable liquids are in constant use, it may be necessary to install special fire-proof cabinets for the storage of these potentially explosive chemicals. The properties of many substances, particularly highly flammable organic solvents, can change dramatically under heat and pressure. According to HSE regulations any such storage bin or cupboard, and its interior shelving, should be able to withstand fire for 30 minutes. The fixings and joints that hold the unit together must have a melting point greater than 750° C. It is possible to purchase special units, bins and even walk in storage areas, that have been manufactured within these set standards.

Sumps

It is also important to consider the possibility that vessels that are used for containing flammable liquids within a storage cupboard may be faulty, leading to breakages. In order to cope with this potential problem, most flammable liquid cupboards are fitted with special sumps, which can contain any spill or breakage within the cabinet. HSE guidelines state that any such sump should be able to contain at least 110% of the volume of the largest container within the unit.

Summary

In an ideal world there would be no accidents involving flammable liquids or chemicals. Yet in today's fast paced world of production and industry it's impossible to ensure that there's never a problem 100% of the time. However, by following the correct procedures around the storage of such dangerous substances, it is possible to minimise the amount of fires and explosions that can be costly to both business and human life.

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