Routinely checking fire protective equipment, examining specific fire hazards, and keeping records of inspections help prevent fire emergencies. Good practice dictates inspections should be conducted at weekly intervals. In this article, we focus specifically on flammable and combustible liquids. Good housekeeping and equipment maintenance are important to storing fuels, cleaning solvents, paints and chemicals.
  • Keep all areas where these liquids are stored, handled or used clear of combustible materials.
  • Always store flammable and combustible liquids away from hot work, heat or other sources of ignition.
  • Immediately clean up liquid spills.
  • Inspect sumps in spill pallets and safety cabinets for any spills/leaks from stored drums or safety cans.
  • Remove any obstructions that prevent containers with lids that are held open by fusible links from closing, and always store containers closed when they are not in use.
  • Make sure all personnel know the hazards of the materials to which they might be exposed. MSDS sheets must be accessible.
  • Carry out repairs to equipment properly and promptly.
  • Do not use damaged safety containers.
Safety cans
Inspect the safety cans you are using. Are they the best safety cans for the task? Use Type I for basic storage, Type II with hoses for controlled targeted pouring and faucet cans when dispensing from a shelf or bench.

Check the integrity of all cans. Look for drips or stains beneath the cans. Be sure the can has not been damaged. Check to be sure that the can lids and/or valves “self-close” properly. After opening the lid or valve to pour, it should automatically close with a tight seal when released. The spring tension of the opening should be working, and the gasket of the opening should be checked and replaced if necessary. Check any spout opening to be sure the flame arrester is inside. Sometimes users remove this critical element to gain a faster liquid flow. If there is no flame arrester, discontinue use until a replacement flame arrester can be installed.

Safety cabinets
For efficiency, store supplies of flammables near the point of use. It’s a sound and safe practice when responsibly administered.

Store the amount needed for a single shift in approved flammable liquid storage cabinets. Make certain the door style is acceptable. For example, don’t use cabinets with manual closing doors in jurisdictions where self-closing doors are mandated.

This checklist will be helpful when inspecting your cabinets:
  • Cabinet material construction is appropriate for the stored chemical.
  • Cabinet size is appropriate for current and future storage needs.
  • Chemicals are properly segregated and stored in the correct color cabinet.
  • Chemicals have been inventoried and MSDS sheets are readily available.
  • Bung caps are installed on dual vents, unless venting is required by the authority having jurisdiction. If required, then vent directly outdoors in a method that does not compromise the performance of the safety cabinet.
  • Anti-static wires have been attached from ground lug to earth source.
  • Cabinet is anchored with seismic bracket as needed.
  • Affixing a padlock to the cabinet’s built-in handle secures the contents while eliminating your need to drill holes in the cabinet to attach a padlock. Any holes violate a cabinet’s integrity and impair its insulating ability.
  • Cabinets are fully operational:

  • • Fusible links are in position on self-close doors.
    • Doors close fully and engage the three-point latching system.
    • Leak proof sills are intact.
    • Shelving is stable and not overloaded.
Waste containers
Non-combustible containers should be used for the disposal of waste and rubbish — critical for fire safety. Industrial waste barrels should be equipped with a fitted cover. Designs are available that will automatically extinguish any fire that might break out within the receptacle. A special contoured head traps the products of combustion and reverses the flow, cutting off the oxygen supply. Inspection should include a check to be sure receptacles are not overfilled. Heads should be examined for serious distortion and replaced when necessary. Minor dents will not decrease the effectiveness of the units. Containers should be emptied daily.

Housekeeping practices should discourage collecting all dry waste in a common container. For example, pressurized containers, such as aerosol cans, cannot be incinerated and should not be mixed with rubbish, which may be burned. Similar precautions must be taken with mercury batteries; if subjected to fire, such batteries may explode.

Solvent-contaminated waste or oily rags cannot be mixed with rubbish. They should be stored in approved oily waste cans and emptied every night as noted on the labels. Inspect these containers regularly. The lid should self-close when released and seat on the can body all the way around. They must not be blocked open, nor should the lids be bent beyond the indicated opening point. Check also to make sure no trash has accumulated in the air space beneath the raised bottoms.

Liquid waste is also an ever-present hazard if not treated properly. Drip pans are essential at many locations. They should be placed under machines using cutting oils and bearings. Oil-absorbing compounds and materials are commercially available and should be used.

Disposing of flammable liquid waste is frequently a troublesome problem. Waste liquids should never be drained into sewers; approved waste containers are available. When volume exceeds that of these disposal cans, steel drums can be used if fitted with FM-approved fill and ventilating devices. The drums are stored temporarily until removed by a licensed scavenger service for ultimate disposal. In many workplaces, inspections should be conducted daily to be certain excessive quantities are not accumulating.