A Quick Guide on the Essentials of Flammables and Combustibles

October 17, 2014 by


Flammable and combustible liquids are similar, but not quite the same. They differ in how hot they must become before they catch fire and explode. This is called the flash point. In most cases, combustible liquids don’t reach their flash point until they reach a very high temperature. To get a bit more technical, the flash point means the lowest temperature at which enough vapors collect at the liquid’s surface to catch fire in the presence of a source of ignition.

How to tell if a chemical is dangerous

To determine whether you are dealing with a flammable or combustible, take a look at the container. If the chemical is dangerous, there will be a warning label indicating that the contents are flammable or combustible. This means that you must use extreme caution in handling the chemical because the threat of fire or explosion is high. If there is any question as to whether a particular liquid is a flammable or combustible, treat it as though it is until you know for sure. Assuming that a liquid is just water or some other nonthreatening substance can result in a tragic accident.

Always Follow Storage Instruction

Have storage areas that are clearly marked as storage throughout your facility. However, do not assume there is no danger just because the liquids are tucked away in one of these locations. The designated areas will decrease the danger of an explosion, but can’t completely eliminate the possibility. Make sure you know where these storage areas are located, and do not go into them unless you have received special training. Only authorized employees should enter and interact with flammable or combustible liquids. Keep all ignition sources away from these areas including but not limited to lit cigarettes, sparks from tools and equipment, welding or cutting operations, and portable heating units, and even static electricity.

Use approved containers

Whenever you are getting one of these liquids for immediate use, use an approved container and labeling system that is in compliance with GHS regulations. Never use plastic jugs, jars, or buckets. Open containers can spill. Glass containers can break. Unless the container you plan to use has been approved for use with flammables and combustibles, it is not allowed. When you are not using the container to obtain a liquid, keep it closed to prevent fumes and vapors from escaping.

Good housekeeping is a vital step in this process, keep areas where flammables and combustibles are present clean at all times. If the unthinkable happens and a spill or fire occurs, the less clutter that can burn and accelerate the damage the better.


5 Reasons Employees Should Not Fight Fires

October 15, 2014 by


In the event that a fire erupts in your facility, the natural tendency may be to grab an extinguisher and try to put the fire out before it gets out of control. In fact, attempting to put out fires may even be part of your company’s emergency action plan. If so, you may want to rethink this strategy. Here are a few reasons why having employees fight fires may not be a good idea.

  •  Training employees to use and maintain fire extinguishers requires resources that you may not have.
  •  Fires that involve flammable solvents, have spread more than 60 square feet, are partially hidden behind a wall or ceiling, or cannot be reached from a standing position show not be fought with an extinguisher.
  •  Because of smoke and other products of combustion, some fires cannot be fought without respiratory protection.
  •  Some fires radiate heat that is easily felt on exposed skin, making it difficult to approach within 10 or 15 feet of the fire (or the effective range of the extinguisher). In some cases, one must crawl on the floor due to heat and smoke. Sometimes, smoke quickly fills the room, decreasing visibility. Employee firefighters are not equipped to handle these situations.
  •  Finally, some fires spread quickly, blocking the evacuation path. If employees are fighting a fire, they must have a clear evacuation path behind them.

Fire Safety Tips for the 5 Classes of Fire

October 9, 2014 by

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To understand how fire extinguishers work, you need to understand a little about fire. Fire is a very rapid chemical reaction between oxygen and a combustible material, which results in the release of heat, light, flames, and smoke.

For fire to exist, the following four elements must be present at the same time:

  •  Enough oxygen to sustain combustion
  •  Enough heat to raise the material to its ignition temperature
  •  Some sort of fuel or combustible material
  •  The chemical reaction that is fire

There are five basic types of fires that bring with them their own type of extinguisher:

Class A


  • Fires involving ordinary combustible materials
  • Include wood, paper, and cloth
  • Produce glowing embers or char.
  • Fire extinguishers will have a numerical rating to indicate the amount of water they hold
  • Have a geometric symbol of a green triangle.


Class B


  • Fires involving flammable gases, liquids and greases
  • Include gasoline and most hydrocarbon liquids that must be vaporized for combustion to occur.
  • The numerical rating on these fire extinguishers indicate the number of square feet of fire they can extinguish
  • Geometric symbol is a red square.

Class C


  • Fires involving live electrical equipment or materials that are near electrically powered equipment.
  • Never use a water extinguisher on a class C fire.
  • These extinguishers do not have a numerical rating
  • Geometric symbol is a blue circle indicating the extinguishing agent is non-conductive.

Class D


  • Fires involving combustible metals
  • Include magnesium zirconium potassium and sodium.
  • These types of extinguishers also have no numerical rating
  • Are designed for class D fires only
  • Geometric symbol is a Yellow Decagon.

Class K


  • Fires involving cooking oils, grease or animal fat
  • Geometric symbol is a black hexagon.

If you are not familiar with fire extinguishers and have not been trained in their use, DO NOT attempt to use them! Not all fire extinguishers are created equal and if they are improperly used could make fires worse.

For more information on proper fire prevention tactics click here.

Strategize, Be Firewise: OSHA Workplace Fire Safety Planning

October 7, 2014 by


When OSHA conducts workplace inspections, one of the areas of your facility that they will check is whether you are in compliance with OSHA standards for fire safety.

OSHA standards require employers to provide proper exits, fire-fighting equipment, emergency plans, and employee training to prevent fire deaths and injuries in the workplace.

Below are some the critical elements that all workplace fire safety plans should include:

  • Each workplace building must have at least two means of escape remote from each other to be used in a fire emergency.
  • Fire doors must not be blocked or locked to prevent emergency use when employees are within the buildings.
    • Delayed opening of fire doors is permitted when an approved alarm system is integrated into the fire door design.
  • Exit routes from buildings must be clear and free of obstructions and properly marked with signs designating exits from the building.
  • Each employer needs to have a written emergency action plan for evacuation of employees which describes the routes to use and procedures to be followed by employees.
    • Procedures for accounting for all evacuated employees must be part of the plan.
    • The written plan must be available for employee review.
  • Where needed, special procedures for helping physically impaired employees must be addressed in the plan.
    • The plan must include procedures for those employees who must remain behind temporarily to shut down critical plant equipment before they evacuate.
  • The preferred means of alerting employees to a fire emergency must be part of the plan.
    • An employee alarm system must be available throughout the workplace complex and must be used for emergency alerting for evacuation.
    • The alarm system may be voice communication or sound signals such as bells, whistles or horns.
    • Employees must know the evacuation signal.
  • Training of all employees in what is to be done in an emergency is required.
    • Employers must review the plan with newly assigned employees so they know correct actions in an emergency and with all employees when the plan is changed.

For information on specific OSHA codes and regulations click here.


Scary Statistics: Take Immediate Action

October 2, 2014 by


Don’t neglect your safety responsibilities at your facility. Lack of attention and cutting corners can lead to big consequences both financially and physically through lost production, greater employee injury and absence and liability cost and fines due to inevitable violations.

2.3 million people worldwide die annually as a result of occupational illnesses and accidents at work. In addition, there are 860,000 injury-causing occupational accidents every day. The direct or indirect cost of occupational illness and accidents at work is estimated at $US 2.8 trillion worldwide.

In 2012 fatal work related injuries in the U.S. were broken down as follows:

  • Total fatal injuries (all sectors):
    4,628 in 2012
  • Roadway incidents (all sectors):
    1,153 in 2012
  • Falls, slips, trips (all sectors):
    704 in 2012
  • Homicides (all sectors):
    475 in 2012

Don’t let your workplace become part of these scary statistics. By listening to your employees who are closest to the potential hazards, these mishaps can be avoided. Welcome feedback even in the form of complaints, Include your workers in the decision making process when developing your protection plans, Find root causes to lingering gaps and problems in your safety plan without placing blame on individuals for reporting accidents. When employees feel like they are being heard and their issues are being addressed, they are more likely to be on board with the changes that are being made.

Make safety part of your mission, change only happens when everyone is committed to the improvement and follow through.



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