While there is widespread appreciation of the need to store flammable substances safely warehouse fires are still a regular occurrence and incorrect storage of flammable substances is often found to play a part in these incidences.
When such a fire occurs it is not necessarily the case that there is a complete disregard for safety, but there are some common mistakes that we witness during site visits that put premises and people at increased risk.
One example is the assumption that storing drums containing flammable substances in an off-the-shelf chemical store means they are safe when this may well not be the case. Often standard stores don’t offer thermal protection which means once the weather heats up the products inside the store do too at which point they can start to give off a flammable vapour and become hazardous.
This is a very simple example but the reality is that storing flammable substances is rarely straight forward with every site having a bespoke set of factors that need to be taken into consideration. It’s therefore useful to consult a hazardous storage expert to ensure that you find the most appropriate solution for your needs but this doesn’t mean you can’t do some ground work first to help you build a picture of your requirements.
The most useful reference tool you have when looking at how to store a flammable substance safely is the product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS) which will either be provided with the product or be available online – if in doubt contact the manufacturer/supplier. Safety Data Sheets can seem overwhelming at first glance but once you know what you are looking for they are actually quite easy to navigate and the following steps can help.
1. Identify the chemical. First of all, you need to know what you’re dealing with so refer to sections 1& 2 of the Safety Data Sheets to identify the substances you want to store and their associated hazards. Once you have this information use section 9 of the Safety Data Sheet to identify the flashpoint of the substance – make sure you are clear about the difference between the flashpoint and the auto-ignition temperature as it is a common mistake to get these confused. A misconception is that the flashpoint of a liquid is the temperature at which it auto ignites – this is incorrect – the temperature at which it auto ignites is called the autoignition temperature. The flashpoint is the temperature at which the liquid gives off flammable vapour. It is not the liquid but the vapour that ignites, so storing a product below this temperature means that no flammable vapour is created. Controlling the temperature also has another benefit that the flammable or hazardous material may work better in process or application when stored at a certain temperature, this temperature can be found in Section 7 of the Safety Data Sheet.
2. Consider compatibility. If you are storing more than one substance, consider whether they are compatible as certain chemicals need to be segregated within a storage facility. Refer to Section 10 of the Safety Data Sheet to identify incompatible materials.
3. Define the application. Consider how you are using the substances as this will affect the level of risk. Bulk storage of unopened items in sealed containers poses a much lower risk of giving off a flammable vapour than storing products in use where a seal has been broken and lids may not be replaced properly. That said, manufactured sealed containers can cause an issue when stored above the flashpoint and the container is trying to release the vapour because the vapour has nowhere to go which will create pressurised containers that eventually burst or go bang. Remember that you need to think about what will happen to your store if a fire breaks out elsewhere in your facility as well as the risk of a fire breaking out within the store itself.
4. Combat the risks. Think about how you can combat these risks using a hierarchy of hazard controls approach. First, consider whether you could use an alternative substance that poses less of a risk. If this isn’t possible think about what you can do to reduce the risks. Firstly think about thermal protection and temperature control – ensuring a product is stored at the correct temperature as per the Safety Data Sheet will help to prevent flammable vapours from occurring – you also need a way of monitoring this temperature – preferably via a remote system that will alert you of any critical changes in temperature. Next consider whether you need an extraction systems to remove vapour in the event that it does get released, once again this needs to include VOC/gas detection monitoring so you receive an alert if there is a rise in vapour so you can address the situation. The next step is to think about fire detection systems to raise the alarm if you have a fire – a double knock system can reduce false alarms so this might be worth considering. Your unit also needs to include the most appropriate fire suppression media which varies depending on the hazard and will be highlighted in Section 5 of the Safety Data Sheet. Frustratingly sometimes the information within these sections can seem contradictory, for example within the Safety Data Sheet for acetone Section 5 recommends using water sprays but not to use water jets – this is why consulting an expert in hazardous storage is advisable. There is also currently some confusing and contradictory information surrounding the most appropriate media for extinguishing lithium-ion battery fires. This reiterates why it is important to consult a hazardous storage expert with experience in these areas.
5. Have a fire response plan. Anyone storing flammable substances needs to be able to instantly know what’s in their building and what you’ve done to protect your site and the surrounding neighbourhood so ensure you have a detailed inventory that can be accessed quickly in the event of an incident. For example Chemstore’s cloud-based hazardous material management software system, Chempli, which can be specified with a unit, includes a QR code that can be featured outside a building or at a security gate enabling the user to instantly access the relevant information in the event of an incident.
This is a very basic guide to some of the factors that need to be taken into account when planning the storage of flammable substances but hopefully it provides enough information to give you an understanding of the needs on your site. If you are in any doubt about your current storage arrangements, or you are in the process if specifying a new system, contact Chemstore Engineering today for a free site survey.
Chemstore Compliance (www.chempli.com) provides the most advanced software platform for the management of an organisation’s hazardous material; mitigating risk, lowering costs and guaranteeing compliance.
Using our 27 years of experience we have listened to you, the customer and understand the challenges and risks your job present. Through years of hard work and research, we have developed the compliance management software to enable you with a live, ready for use system guaranteeing compliance on your site.
Chempli will keep you step ahead with the latest safety regulations and expert articles and guides.
Comprising of a suite of modules, it provides your company with a cost-effective point of entry, coupled with a scalable architecture, enabling seamless migration to more advanced management, control and workflow functionality at any future point.
Imagine one centralised platform allowing you to:
Chempli is already being utilised in key industries such as Food Processing, Pharmaceutical, Universities & Medical Devices as some of our keynote clients have been instrumental for Chemstore developing this Compliance Management Software for Hazardous Materials – Chempli.
Chempli is compatible with the complete range of Chemstore storage solutions for flammables, compressed gases, hazardous, temperature-controlled, battery and corrosive material stores. It may also be seamlessly integrated with your organisation’s existing chemical storage infrastructure, to provide a central platform for the effective management of hazardous materials enterprise-wide.
For further information and to book a demo today please visit www.chempli.com
You can also download our pdf brochure detailing fully our compliance management software for hazardous materials here:
Lithium Ion Storage and Charging cabinet – 90 Minute Fire Rated
In Active Storage, lithium-ion batteries or battery packs are charged in a cabinet.
When charging lithium-ion batteries heat can be generated, if this heat output is too high, a fire may occur, for example, if the lithium-ion battery, charger or the cable is defective. Another major risk factor is thermal runaway of lithium-ion batteries. To combat this major issue we introduced a lithium-ion storage cabinet.
You can rest easy in the knowledge that you can charge your batteries overnight and they will be protected by a 90-minute fire-rated cabinet that has smoke detection and fire suppression built-in.
Dimensions: External 1,196W x 616D x 1,968H (mm).
Cabinet Weight: 424Kg.
Loading: 180Kg evenly distributed load per shelf.
Storage: 6 No. shelves and 1 no. bottom collecting sump.
Spillage Collection: 33 L Leak tested, welded steel, liquid collection sump in the base.
Access: Twin hinged wing doors.
Finish: Chemical resistant powder coat finish (Blue).
Company fined following extensive fire at chemical site
Chemical company LMA Services Ltd has been sentenced for safety breaches after a fire which quickly took hold of buildings and storage areas at the site.
Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard that on 30 June 2016, the fire started during a chemical dispensing operation in a Warehouse on Halifax Way, Pocklington Industrial Estate, Pocklington. Heptane, a highly flammable liquid, was being decanted from a bulk storage container into 4-litre metal cans. The operator dropped the can he was filling, exited the warehouse quickly and raised the alarm. He did not suffer any serious injury. The fire spread quickly and destroyed the warehouse, the adjacent warehouse and an external storage area between the two.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the process involved placing a bulk container of heptane onto racking at a height of about 1.5m. A table was then positioned beneath the bulk container onto which a small electrical weighing scale was positioned. Metal cans were placed onto the scale and an employee filled the cans by weight by manually operating a tap on the bulk container in the warehouse building.
A flammable vapour created during the process came into contact with an ignition source causing the vapour to ignite. HSE’s investigation found that the most likely source of ignition was a spark from the electrical weighing scales.
LMA Services Ltd of Halifax Way, Pocklington Industrial Estate, Pocklington pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6 (3) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002. The company has been fined £14,000 and ordered to pay £2,377 in costs.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Dave Stewart commented: “The risks associated with the decanting operation were not fully understood by the company. There were potential ignition sources present within the area where a flammable vapour was likely to occur.
“This case highlights the importance of assessing risks associated with flammable atmospheres. Employers should ensure that adequate measures are taken to reduce the formation of flammable atmospheres so far as is reasonably practicable, and to ensure that only suitable electrical equipment is used in areas where a flammable atmosphere may be present.”
For advice and guidance on safe flammable liquid storage, or to book a free site survey, contact Chemstore UK today on 0208 704 1807.
Case Study: Storing Acetone
When professional nail product distributor, Pure Nails, was looking for a storage solution for safely storing Acetone within their factory before it was forwarded for onward distribution, they turned to Chemstore UK.
As Acetone is highly flammable it needed to be housed in a 90minute fire rated structure but it also needed to be easily accessible so orders could be fulfilled quickly and efficiently.
Following a site visit from Account Manager, Stephen Mansell, Chemstore UK proposed a bespoke Firevault unit which measured 14m long and, rather than housing standard pallet racking, incorporated front and back access for easy loading and unloading of boxes.
Stephen Mansell explains: “The Acetone remains within its manufactured sealed containers during the time that Pure Nails handles it so it is unlikely to be the source of a fire, but due to Acetone’s highly flammable nature, it was essential to keep it protected from potential fires started elsewhere within the premises. The bespoke Firevault was the perfect solution because it ensured when storing Acetone the product could be protected from fire without hindering the company’s operations.”
Nathan Palmer, Head of Operations, Pure Nails comments: “From their first site visit through to the design and approval of the Firevault to it arriving and being installed in great condition onsite, we were very impressed with both the product and service provided by Chemstore UK.
“Getting the unit into the factory was really impressive. I would definitely recommend using them.”
Lithium Ion Battery Box
For storing and transporting defective or damaged lithium batteries in accordance with P 908.
Lithium Ion Battery Store – Introducing Electrovault
Over two billion Lithium ion cells are produced every year, but major safety concerns surround battery storage, quarantine procedures, transport/disposal of damaged batteries and thermal runaway. During a thermal runaway, the high heat created by the failing cell can develop to the next cell, causing it to also become thermally unstable. A battery pack can be destroyed within minutes or last for hours as each cell runs away. An irreversible thermal event in a lithium-ion battery can be initiated in several ways, by spontaneous internal or external short-circuit, overcharging, external heating or fire or even mechanical abuse.
During a thermal runaway hydrogen fluoride HF, phosphorus pentafluoride (PF5) and phosphoryl fluoride (POF3) are released, studies have shown that using water as a fire suppressant may also increase the formation of HF.
Our Electrovault storage units are made to comply with RC61 guidelines for Battery storage and can be tailored to suit your specification, whether that is:
Trust in our reputation for developing and delivering market-leading products and services for hazardous materials handling.
Improving the level of safety in your workplace is where our work begins. From there, we’ll help you reduce your risk, liability and downtime, and therefore increase productivity. Plus, we’ll take you beyond the legal standards for Health & Safety and Corporate Social Responsibility, with products and services that are also designed to exceed your performance expectations.