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How to Store Flammable Substances Safely

Storing flammable substances safely is very important to reduce the risk of fires breaking out on your premises. If you are working with or regularly use substances that can be ignited easily, then here are some tips to ensure you are looking after them properly.

What are flammable substances?

To start with, let’s explain what flammable substances are. Take a look around. Chances are you encounter these on a daily basis. Flammable or combustible substances range from basic cleaning fluids and cooking oil to aerosols, fuel and gases such as propane.

The definition of a flammable substance is one that ignites or burns easily. These materials can be either in solid, liquid or gas form and are common in both domestic and commercial environments.

Clear labelling should be used to indicate those materials that are highly flammable. If you are storing a large volume of these substances, then you should make sure that appropriate hazard labelling is used in storage areas.

Why do fires start?

For a fire to start, there are three key ingredients that must be present – fuel, heat and oxygen. All it takes is a spark to start it off. So the key to preventing fires is to keep these components apart and away from ignition sources.

What are flash points?

All flammable liquids and gases have a flash point, which is a temperature that their vapour will ignite at, if exposed to a spark.

If you’re storing flammable liquids and gases, you should be aware of their flash point and make sure they are kept safely below this temperature.

Ventilate storage areas

If vapours from flammable liquids or gases escape and build up this can cause an explosion, therefore if you are storing large quantities of these, you’ll need to make sure there is a constant flow of air to diffuse any vapours.

Heat and ignition sources should not be present

Fires can start from something as simple as a tiny spark. Common ignition sources include electrical appliances, heaters, lights, naked flames and cigarettes. Effort should be made to keep ignition sources as far away from stores of flammables as possible.

If smoking is allowed on your premises, it’s best to enforce strict rules keeping smokers in certain specified areas, so that accidents do not occur.

Containers should be secure

Flammable liquids and gases should be stored in secure containers. Regular checks for damage should be carried out to minimize the risk of leaks. Canisters should be placed on a flat surface, ideally on the ground and kept upright. If a container shows signs of damage, including denting or bulging, it should be replaced immediately. Don’t attempt to repair or remove faulty valves or unless you are properly trained to do so.

Exchange for less flammable materials

The safest way to minimize the risks associated with flammable materials is to remove them all together, or replace with less dangerous substances. If you can’t avoid or replace substances, only store the amount you intend to use. Don’t stock up on flammables unnecessarily.

Separate storage areas

Keep storage locations for flammables away from areas where there are people, doors, exits, stairways and other means of escape. Ideally dangerous substances should be spread out, so that large quantities aren’t stored in one place.

Storing a large quantity of flammable substances?

In some environments it may be necessary to store large volumes of flammable substances. There are special guidelines for this. Containers must be kept securely, with emergency valves for metal tanks or containers. The volume of substance will dictate the most appropriate type of container.

  • 5 litres – glass
  • 25 litres – plastic or metal

Keep fire extinguishers near stores of flammables

Fire extinguishers should be located nearby places where flammables are stored. These should be visible and within easy reach if needed. As your first line of defence against fire, having extinguishers on hand can prevent a small fire getting out of control.

The type of fire extinguisher you require will depend on the type of fire that is most likely to occur. Generally dry powder extinguishers are good to have around flammables as they can tackle Class A, B and C fires.

Risk assessments

Inevitably when storing flammable substances, particularly large quantities in commercial and public environments, this will need to be identified in your fire risk assessment. You should outline, the steps that you will take to reduce the potential danger around the presence of these materials.

It’s highly recommended to have a full risk assessment carried out on your premises, particularly if you are storing substances that present a fire risk.

Storing flammables on your premises? We can provide advice and full fire risk assessments to protect you against the threat of fire.

Call us today on 08000 515 199.

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