Guide to Handling and Storing Flammable Liquids

Guide to Handling and Storing Flammable Liquids

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a flammable liquid is defined as any liquid with a flashpoint, the lowest temperature that produces vapors, of below 100° F (37.8° C), and a vapor pressure not exceeding 100° F. Fires and explosions are not caused by the ignition of the liquid, but of the liquid’s vapors.

For this reason, organizations are required to take great care in the storage of flammable liquids in the workplace. The hazards they present are a threat to workers as well as the surrounding environment. Just one gallon of vaporized gasoline can explode with the same veracity as 20 sticks of dynamite.

Potential ignition sources:

  • Sparks created by electrical tools and equipment
  • Sparks created by industrial welding and cutting or grinders
  • Sparks created by static electricity
  • Sparks created by incinerators, furnaces, or fireboxes
  • Any nearby hot surfaces such as a boiler, a hot plate, or a steam pipe
  • Open flames, such as pilot lights, ovens, driers, or torches
  • Cigarettes and other sources of lit tobacco

Rules on how flammable materials are handled are strict. For example, liquid from only one container should be dispersed at a time to prevent spills or an excessive release of vapors. The transferring of liquids should never occur near ignition sources, and make sure all metal containers are bonded and grounded. Proper signage should be displayed throughout the workplace, warning workers and other site visitors of the potential dangers. Finally, whenever possible, organizations are required only to use explosion-protected containers from work safety equipment suppliers.

Safety Cans and Containers

Safety Cans

Classification of Flammable Liquids

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) distinguishes between flammable and combustible liquids. A liquid is classified as flammable if the flashpoint does not exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. A combustible liquid is any liquid with a flashpoint that is greater than 100 degrees. According to the NFPA, a Class I designation technically refers to a flammable liquid, while a Class II or III technically refers to a combustible liquid.

In general, though, Class I, II, and III liquids can all be referred to as flammable liquids. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), no more than 60 gallons of Class I, II, or III flammable liquid may be stored in a single safety cabinet, and no more than three safety cabinets may be kept in any storage facility. 

Safety Cabinets

The most common work zone safety equipment for storing flammable or combustible liquids is the flammable liquids storage cabinet. Cabinet specifications for these steel cabinets are defined by OSHA, the NFPA, and the Uniform Fire Code (UFC). They include:

  • All sides of the cabinet need to be at least 18-gauge sheet steel.
  • Doors need to have a three-point latch with a sill raised at least 2-inches above the bottom.
  • The cabinet needs to be clearly marked “Flammable – Keep Fire Away.”
  • All joints of the cabinet need to be riveted, welded, or tightened.
  • Double walls are required with 1-inch airspace.
  • The cabinet needs to pass a 10-minute internal temperature test of 325° F.

Safety Cabinets and Storage

Safety Cabinets

Eagle's safety cabinet product line is designed and manufactured to best meet the ever-changing needs of today’s business, industrial and laboratory environments. All Eagle cabinets are available in 2- to 110-gallon sizes.

Safety cabinet features

  • Reinforced double-wall construction with 1.5-inch air space on sides, top, bottom, back, and doors
  • Lead-free, high-gloss, baked-on powder coat finish
  • Continuous piano hinges
  • Ground connection
  • Four adjustable galvanized leveling legs
  • Trilingual warning labels
  • Two-inch raised leakproof sill
  • Adjustable galvanized steel shelves that hold 350 pounds
  • Internal and external welded construction
  • Two two-inch internal vents with fire baffle and cap
  • Flush-mounted door handle with a key lock
  • Three-point latch system
  • Four 3/4" centers for shelf brackets
  • Self-latching doors
  • Construction of 18-gauge steel

Shop Safety Flammable Cabinets

Safety Cans

Safety cans are for the safe transport and dispensing of dangerous flammable liquids. They come in all sizes and capacities, from 0.5 gallons to 5 gallons, and are made from either steel or low conductivity plastic.

Cans available from safety equipment suppliers should also include spring-mounted spout caps that open automatically due to vapor pressure build-up. This allows the vapors to escape, preventing a potential explosion. These special caps can also be closed automatically when dispersing is finished or if the can is dropped. Some safety can cap spouts include a wire mesh flame arrester screen to prevent a flashback from reaching the liquid. All of Eagle’s safety cans include a flame arrester.

Eagle Manufacturing’s galvanized Type I and Type II safety cans meet OSHA and NFPA Code 30 requirements and are UL and ULC listed and FM approved for safe storage and handling of flammable liquids. Eagle offers FM Approved compliance solutions in a variety of safety cans, lab cans, faucet cans, disposal cans, plunger, bench, daub cans, and poly oily waste cans to help keep your personnel and facilities protected.

Shop Safety Fuel Cans

Other Safety Containers

Safety equipment suppliers also sell other safety containers for the storage and transport of dangerous flammable liquids. Like safety cans, these containers also have self-closing lids or flame arrestors. They include:

  • Tanks for rinsing and cleaning large parts
  • Plunger cans for moistening cleaning rags
  • Bench cans for rinsing small parts
  • Other containers for disposing of flammable liquids and oily rags

Shop Surface and Parts Cleaner Cans

Additional Guides

Additional Eagle Manufacturing Products

In addition to safety cans and cabinets, Eagle Manufacturing offers an expansive line of plastic barrels for storage, secondary spill containment pallets and kits, material handling protection equipment, and traffic safety solutions. All products are known for their high quality, innovative features, and compliance with industry requirements. Eagle products are made in the USA.

Plastic Drums HDPE Polyethylene

Eagle offers lab packs, overpack, open-head, and salvage drums. The 14-, 20-, 30- and 55- gallon lab packs and open-head drums are available with plastic lids and a choice of metal or plastic lever locking rings. The 14-, 20-, 30-, 55-, 65- and 95-gallon overpack and salvage drums are available with metal bands or screw-on lids. All models are constructed of chemical resistant, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) with UV inhibitors. Durable and lightweight, poly drums are available in yellow, blue, and black.

All Eagle drums feature:

  • Blow-molded HDPE construction.
  • Chemical and weather-resistant
  • United Nations (UN) Certified to HM-81
  • Operating temperature range (-30ºF to 130ºF)
  • Drop Tested - Max Weight @ 0ºF (48hrs.).
  • Approved for use with Packing Groups I, II, and III
  • Include a UV Protection Package
  • 3/16-inch wall thickness
  • UL 94HB Flammability Rating
  • Nestable for ideal storage (except model 1656)
  • FDA 21 CFR 177.1520 Food Grade Quality
  • Stack Tested.