How to Safely Store Combustible Materials
Many businesses work with combustible materials, which come in solid, liquid, and gas forms. These hazardous materials are characterized by their proclivity for igniting and burning or adding heat to existing fire in their natural form and within the conditions of use for which they were created.
In other words, combustible materials can easily catch fire or significantly fuel existing fires. Such materials constitute a hazard in the workplace and must therefore be carefully handled and kept in proper combustible storage.
This is not only for the safety of workers and facilities; it is also a legal requirement, although specifics may differ depending on the materials being stored, the state in which a company operates, and other factors. Regardless, it is the onus of any business working with combustible materials to ensure the safety of employees and create a safe work environment.
If you're looking to safely store combustible materials on the premises, here are just a few guidelines that will help to prevent accidents, injuries, and damages.
Utilize Approved Containers
OSHA has specific guidelines relating to proper combustible storage, including appropriate containers for different types of combustible materials. You'll have to do some research to find the specifications related to your industry and the types of materials you're handling.
Generally speaking, containers used to store combustible materials should include safety features such as a spring closing lid and/or a spout cover. Because materials can become pressurized during storage, these safety features can be used to safely release pressure, diminishing the threat of combustion.
Where to Store Combustible Materials
In addition to suitable storage containers, it's a good idea to have a secondary storage solution in place as a failsafe. Storage cabinets designed for combustible materials will include proper ventilation as well as measures designed to contain fires within and protect the contents from external fires.
You may even want to store containers and/or cabinets in fire-safe rooms that feature proper ventilation and electrical components that are fire and explosion proof. Of course, it's also important that you have proper protocols in place, such as separating any chemicals that could have bad reactions and trigger combustion should they be exposed to each other.
In addition, combustible storage containers should not be placed overhead as this can increase the risk that they may be dropped or fall on their own. They also shouldn't be stored on the floor or out in the open, such as on counters. Storage near heat or ignition sources is also a no-no.
Proper combustible storage is about more than simply having the right components in place. Employees must also be trained to utilize them properly to prevent combustion.
The volume of combustible materials a given business is legally allowed to store in a single location varies by the class of materials. That said, safety guidelines say that combustible storage containers should be no more than five gallons each.
Since jostling is a concern, this size of container is generally considered safe to handle and store. As for how many such containers of combustible materials you may keep, you'll want to consult OSHA rules and regulations.
Moving combustible materials should be kept to a minimum for obvious reasons. Any time combustible materials are moved the risks of combustion due to agitation, exposure, mishandling, and so on increase, even when stored in proper containers.
This, in turn, exposes employees to danger. In other words, create a plan for storage than includes as little transfer of combustible materials as possible.
Fire Safety Equipment
Because of the increased risk of fire and explosion when working with combustible materials, it is imperative that proper fire safety equipment be on hand should the worst case scenario occur. Even if the materials themselves don't ignite, there is always the possibility of an unrelated fire in your facility that could be exacerbated by the combustible materials present.
Any time you're working with hazardous materials of this nature you should provide chemical showers and hand and eye washing stations for employees that accidentally have skin or eye contact with combustible materials. You also need appropriate fire extinguishers located throughout your facility as directed by OSHA and other applicable fire safety laws.
The laws regarding sprinklers vary among industries, facilities, and states, but any time a business features combustible storage it's a good bet that sprinklers are on the list of must-haves. Safety should be a top priority for any employer, and this is especially true when determining how to safely store combustible materials.