Flammable liquids are used in many workplaces. They may range from cleaning fluids, paints, and gasoline to some more volatile and dangerous liquids. If you remember a few simple, common sense rules when handling or storing flammable liquids, you can help prevent injury to yourself and your coworkers or prevent your workplace from going up in flames.

Flammable liquids themselves will not burn, but as the liquid evaporates, it gives off vapors that mix with the air to form dangerous gases that can be set off by a small spark. Gasoline, for example, evaporates at temperatures as low as 45 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. As the temperature rises, the rate of evaporation increases and more and more vapors are given off. Vapors are usually heavier than air so they collect in the lowest areas they can reach. Without good ventilation to dissipate them, a small spark can set off a big disaster.

Carefully read the manufacturer’s label on the container of any flammable liquid before storing or using it. Practice good housekeeping in flammable liquid storage areas. Clean up spills immediately then place the cleanup rags in a closed, bottom ventilated, metal container. Only use approved metal safety containers or the original manufacturer’s container to store flammable liquids. Keep the containers closed when not in use; stored away from exits or passageways.

Don’t trust your nose to tell you whether an area or container is vapor free. Not all dangerous liquids give off vapors you can smell. Some vapors are poisonous as well as flammable. Use flammable liquids only where there is plenty of ventilation.

Be careful not to get a flammable liquid on you or your clothing. It could cause painful skin irritation or ignite your clothing and envelop you in flames. If you get any flammable liquid on you, wash it off or change your clothes as soon as you can.

Keep flammable liquids away from any open flame or spark and never smoke where flammable liquids are present. Treat flammable liquids with respect and follow the manufacturer’s suggestions for their use.

The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.