Flammable liquids, as defined by OSHA, is any liquid with a flash point at or below 199.4°F. The two primary hazards of flammable liquids are explosion and fire. Flammable liquids burn easily at normal working temperatures and are extremely prone to ignition, whereas combustible liquids can burn at temperatures higher than working temperatures. Common flammable liquids include cleaners, paints, and solvents, just to name a few.
OSHA’s standards for flammable liquids are primarily based on NFPA 30: The Flammable Liquids Code. The main focus of safe handling for flammable liquids is the proper storage. When not in use, these liquids must be kept in covered containers that are approved by OSHA’s Flammable and Combustible Liquids Standard. Storage cabinets, portable tanks, and safety cans are all approved containers. Depending on the flash point for the liquid, OSHA has set requirements for the acceptable amount that can be stored in one container. Containers should be labeled so individuals can quickly identify the content. Safety labels should include a flammable warning, the name of the liquid, the flash point, and the fire point.
Employers should assess the liquids housed in the facility and understand which ones fall under the definition of flammable or combustible, ensuring they are stored properly. If the workplace stores or uses flammable liquids, it is important to post reminders of unsafe activities. Using “No Smoking” signs and “No Open Flames or Matches” will ensure workers do not put themselves or the facility in danger. Additionally, normal fire suppression systems may not be adequate for flammable liquids. A safety manager will need to evaluate the needs of the workplace and equip it with the proper tools to put out a fire caused by flammable liquids quickly.
Typically, flammable liquids present hazards aside from fire and explosion. Many times, these substances can be hazardous to human health. When facilities receive flammable liquids, the safety data sheet should be reviewed for any extra precautions that must be taken to keep employees safe.