Flammable chemicals create a whole new set of potential hazards in the workplace. If they aren’t properly stored and maintained, something as small as a single spark could ignite the chemicals to create a massive explosion. Earlier this year, an explosion at the West Fertilizer Company plant in West, Texas killed over a dozen workers and first responders while leaving many others injured. This is why it’s important for companies to properly store their flammable chemicals. Here, we’re going to walk you through the do’s and don’ts of storing flammable chemicals.
Know Your Chemical Storage Cabinets
Companies should store their flammable chemicals in professional-grade, flame-resistant cabinets. In the event of a nearby fire or explosion, the chemicals will remain safely locked inside where rather than fueling the fire. With that said, not all cabinets are made the same. The bottom line is that you need to familiarize yourself with the different types of chemical storage cabinets to ensure you choose the one that’s best suited for y0ur particular needs.
So, what are the different types of chemical storage cabinets? While there are dozens of different kinds, ranging in size, shape, shelving, features and more, nearly all of them are broken down into one of two different categories: steel and high-density polyethylene. Steel storage cabinets offer an exceptional level of strength and durability, while being able to withstand the heat from most fires. The thick, premium-grade steel construction acts as a natural barrier to keep flames away from flammable chemicals. However, there are some flammable chemicals that will burn right through steel. If you’re looking to store chemicals such as this in your workplace, you’ll want to stick with high-density polyethylene cabinets.
Identify Ignition Sources
After placing your flammable chemicals inside the appropriate cabinets, you should perform an inspection of your workplace to identify possible ignition sources. Many businesses and companies perform their day-to-day operations unknowing of this information, making them susceptible to fires and explosions. While each workplace is unique, here’s a short list of some of the most common ignition sources:
- Still-burning cigarette butts
- Sparks from saws, drills and other machines
- Faulty electrical wiring
- Open flames and burners
- Furnace embers
- Steam pipes
- Space heaters
- Hot plates
- Hot bearings
- Welding sparks
- Portable torches
By identifying possible ignition sources in the workplace, you can make smarter decisions on where to store your flammable chemicals.