How to Store Flammable Liquids Safely

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) appears to be focusing more closely on the storage and use of flammable liquids following a number of fires and explosions.

They are expecting that no more than 50L of extremely flammable liquid (liquids with a flashpoint of less than 23°C) should be stored in a work room. When the liquids are not actually being used or dispensed they should be stored in their original container with a closed lid within a cabinet or metal bin, which is half hour fire resistant and will contain any spillage from the flammable liquid containers inside. Flammable liquids should never be stored with incompatible substances such as oxidisers, corrosive materials or explosive or pyrotechnic materials.

Similarly the HSE is expecting that no more than 250L of other flammable liquids (flashpoints between 23°C and 60°C) should be stored within a work room.

HSE guidance suggests there is some flexibility on these quantities given the nature of modern workplaces with large open plan factories but they do say that if quantities in excess of these are stored, there must be a robust demonstration of the requirement to store more than the guidance figures. Historically, the quantity used in one shift was accepted. Any assessment to justify larger quantities should consider:

  • the properties of the materials to be stored or handled in the workroom / working area. For mixed storage, the worst case situation should be applied, i.e. all materials in the storage cupboard or bin should be considered as being the same material as the one that has the lowest flashpoint.
  • the size of the workroom / working area and the number of people working in it
  • the amount of flammable liquids being handled in the workroom / working area and the quantities of liquid that may be accidentally released or spilled
  • ignition sources in the workroom / working area and potential fire spread in the event of an ignition
  • exhaust ventilation provision to the workroom / working area and / or the storage cupboard or bin
  • the fire performance of the storage cupboard or bin
  • the arrangements for closing the cupboard or bin doors/lid in the event of a fire
  • means of escape from the workroom / working area

Larger quantities of flammable liquids should be stored in separate outside accommodation (container or building) which must have adequate ventilation, allow any evolved vapours to safely dissipate, suitable bonding to contain any spillage and no ignition sources within. It should also be fire resistant.

Where flammable liquids and their vapours may be present such as in processes or close to process machinery the equipment used must be the type which will not cause any ignition. The equipment will need to be approved under the Atex or UK equivalent standards.

All the above should be part of your assessment carried out under the Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmospheres Regulations 2002.

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