According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), flammable liquids and chemicals in the workplace increase the potential injury risks for workers. Flammable liquids are capable of igniting flash fires and explosions without warning. At certain flashpoints, liquids give off vapors that can form an ignitable mixture with air.
The Dangers of Flammable Chemicals
Common solvents including ether, acetone, ethanol, benzene, kerosene, diesel fuel, motor oil, floor waxes, paints, and various cleaning products are considered flammable liquids. These solvents are found in many types of work environments in office buildings, retail businesses, restaurants, medical facilities, and industrial warehouses across the country. They pose significant workplace dangers.
- Flammable and combustible liquids ignite easily and burn rapidly
- The flash point of the liquid determines flammability
- Flammable liquids have a flash point of fewer than 100 degrees Fahrenheit
- Combustible liquids have a flashpoint at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit
- Liquids with lower flash points ignite faster
- Inflammable and combustible liquids, only the vapor burns, not the liquid itself
OSHA has strict storage requirements for flammable and combustible liquids used in the workplace, because they ignite and burn so quickly. The type and size of a storage container are determined by the liquid’s hazard classification.
Fire and Explosion Hazards
Flammable liquids and chemicals can be found in almost every workplace. Employees who work with flammable liquids must be aware of fire and explosion dangers and must be properly trained in safety measures to prevent workplace injuries. In normal workspace temperatures, flammable and combustible liquids can give off enough vapor to create serious fire hazards. Since the vapors of flammable and combustible liquids are invisible, special equipment is usually necessary to detect them. Once a flammable or combustible liquid ignites, it burns quickly, gives off extreme heat, and often produces thick clouds of black smoke with toxic fumes.
Most flammable and combustible liquids flow easily, so even a small spill in the workplace can cover a large area quickly. Even after a spill has been cleaned up, a dangerous amount of liquid can still remain, giving off enough hazardous vapors to ignite a fire and spark an explosion. Burning liquids can flow rapidly under doors, down hallways and stairways, and even into adjacent buildings and structures, resulting in very large fires.