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21 June 2024 in Building, Commercial

Protecting Your Flammable Liquid Stores: A Vital Investment for Safety and Security

flammable storage solutions

You wouldn’t leave a toddler alone with a flamethrower, would you? Flammable liquids can behave just as unpredictably as the ‘terrible twos’, unless they’re held in a safe, regulation- compliant environment. Protecting flammable liquid stores from spills, the risks of poor ventilation, and other dangers is crucial to keep facilities safe and compliant with regulations.

Why is storing flammable liquids correctly vital

Flammable liquids, from natural oils to chemical solvents, can cause devastating fires if incorrectly stored or handled.

As J. Craig Voelkert writes, ‘Water by itself will not extinguish flammable liquid fires under most circumstances’ — in fact, water runs a high risk of spreading the fire.

Storing and handling flammable liquids safely should thus be the first line of defence. Safeguarding flammable liquid stores is important because it:

  • Prevents devastating fires
    Ensures compliance with health and safety regulations regarding flammable liquids
  • Protects your investments, from facilities to equipment
  • Mitigates environmental factors that may cause flammable liquids to ignite (such as
    high ambient temperatures)
  • Ensures employee safety
  • Ensures that your premises adhere to insurance policy requirements

What fire suppression systems protect against flammable liquid fires?

Fires involving flammable liquids or liquefiable solids such as oil, paint, greases, petrol and spirits fall under ‘Class B’ in the alphabetical fire classification system.
The best way to extinguish Class B fires is to separate the fuel and its oxygen supply. Common fire suppression systems in flammable liquid storage spaces include CO2 (carbon dioxide) extinguishers, foam extinguishers, dry chemical extinguishers, and clean agent extinguishers.

Here are the pros and cons of each type:

  • CO2 extinguishers
    Carbon dioxide extinguishers suffocate a fire, removing the oxygen necessary for it to keep burning. It also reduces heat since the gaseous extinguishing agent is very cold. Because the gas disperses quickly, these are most effective at close range.
  • Foam extinguishers
    Fire suppression systems that use foam are suitable for Class A and Class B fires. These effectively separate the fuel and the oxygen by producing a seal on the flammable liquid’s surface.
    This option is only effective when the flammable liquid is not free-flowing, as that will prevent the required seal from forming.
  • Dry chemical extinguishers
    Dry chemical systems interrupt the chemical reaction that fuels combustion. They have a better range than CO2 extinguishers as they use compressed, non-flammable gas and can propel the fire extinguishing agent further.
  • Clean agent extinguishers
    These extinguishers interrupt the chemical reaction of a fire and/or remove heat. They’re effective on Class B and C fires. The reason they’re called ‘clean’ is that they use halogens and other agents that do not require as much cleanup after use as foam and other extinguisher options.

Protecting flammable liquid stores: How to ensure safety

There are several ways to protect flammable liquids and ensure that fire risks are minimised:

  • Install the correct fire suppression systems
    Class A fire suppression systems that may spread flammable liquid fires are obviously not suitable as explained above. You don’t want to use extinguishers that will exacerbate liquid fires. Make sure that your system is approved for fighting Class B fires.
  • Ensure proper ventilation
    Many flammable liquids are denser than air which mean vapor can ‘pool’ around containers and create a low-lying fire risk. Ensure proper ventilation so that flammable liquids cannot build up in gaseous form and provide a dangerous combustion risk.
  • Use flame-resistant storage cabinets
    SABS-approved flame-resistant storage is essential for keeping flammable liquids securely stowed away. Use storage constructed from fire-retardant materials that will not add to the damage in the event of fire.
  • Conduct regular inspections and maintenance
    Fire safety is only as good as the reliability of your fire suppression systems and equipment. Schedule regular inspections and maintenance to ensure the safety of employees and facilities.
  • Invest in employee training
    Employees who are trained for fire safety and handling flammable liquids correctly will help to prevent disaster and add to your line of defence against fire.
  • Invest in security measures
    Arson and accidents due to theft of flammable liquids are avoidable with rigorous security for flammable liquid storage.

To conclude, safeguarding flammable liquid stores isn’t just about preventing runaway fires. It’s a matter of saving lives while protecting the environment and your investment.

Contact ERF today to schedule inspection or maintenance, and give yourself peace of mind by ensuring your flammable liquids are secure and pose the least possible risk.

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