Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | July 19, 2010

Storing Flammable Materials

Be careful when storing flammable materials.

In our continuing series about fire safety and prevention, this week’s post will look at the ways that you can mitigate the risk of fire by adopting best practices for storing flammable materials. Since flammable liquid can be ignited even without a spark, this information is particularly important for property owners who lease commercial buildings.

Fumes from containers that are not properly sealed can be carried on air currents to the flame of a water heater or the pilot light on a stove. The slightest spark can start a devastating fire; so proper handling and use as well as proper storage of volatile materials are essential. This is normally where I would make a “volatile materials” joke, but I’ll let it pass…

Guesswork isn’t necessary for the proper usage and storage of flammable materials.  Organizations such as OSHA and NFPA have produced and refined various guidelines that, when followed, greatly reduce the risk of fire. Strict adherence can save lives.

The following measures will help prevent accidents (Laying down newspapers won’t help with this kind of accident.):

  • Make sure that the right types of fire extinguishers are available to combat potential fires. The NFPA recommends special “fast flow” extinguishers for locations that have pressurized flammable liquids.
  • Prevent arson by making sure that all flammable materials are stored in a locked area with access given to a limited number of employees. I keep the keys to my doghouse as secure as the “nuclear football.” Nobody gets in without my permission.
  • All outside contractors or janitorial staff should be aware of the location of hazardous materials and should be instructed to stay away from dangerous areas.
  • Install sufficient ventilation systems that move vapors away from your building to a proper outside area.

Flammables Storage Guidelines:

  • The NFPA has guidelines on classifying different flammables based on their “flash points” – the temperature at which the material is at risk of combustion. (I learned the station firefighters’ flash point the other day when I chewed on the legs of the dining room table.) Make sure tenants know the proper classification for their chemicals, from acetaldehyde to naphthalene. RJWestmore clients have access to “How to Read a Fire Diamond” within the Resources section of their online training program.

    RJ Westmore, Inc. cilents have access to lots of valuable information.

  • Utilize the proper safety cans for storing flammable liquids. These cans do not allow the escape of flammable vapors and are designed to release internal pressure. They should be sturdy enough to resist crushing or punctures. I would love to put my lamb & rice meal in one of these containers to keep it super fresh!
  • Incompatible chemicals and oxidizers should be kept away from other reactive materials to prevent unintentional mixing. If two chemicals are like cats and dogs, don’t put them on the same shelf!
  • Install specially designed storage cabinets that keep a lid on the internal temperature to prevent the start and spread of fire.

With any safety issue, the key is knowledge and preparation. Tenants who work with flammable materials on a regular basis are probably well aware of any special considerations that should be taken regarding the storage and disposal of unstable materials. But, as a building owner or property manager, there is no harm in making sure that your tenants follow all safety guidelines.

Visit us again next week for the third blog post in our series about fire safety and prevention.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

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