Flammable Liquids

Have you ever seen several full tanker trailers parked without their mode of transport under them or a railcar with the Class 3 Flammable placard hooked up to the process and being used as a storage tank? Although OSHA’s 1910.106 makes no specific prohibition against this practice, I would like to point out that the International Fire Code (IFC) of which many states in the USA have adopted as their state fire code does make a SPECIFIC PROHIBITION of using railcars or tank trucks as “storage tanks”.

Description of Incident: 

An operator was checking the level in a 500 gallon methanol storage tank:

  • Tank was polyethylene plastic, double wall
  • A worker climbed on top of the tank.
  • Flammable vapour was ignited, when the worker touched the cap on the inner tank, resulting in an explosion and flash fire. 
  • The worker received first aid for a second degree burn to the arm. 

A little background on what this table is telling us:

NFPA 77 classifies flammable liquids as Conductive, Semi-Conductive, and Non-Conductive:

Conductive Liquids = >10,000 pS/m

Semi-Conductive Liquids = >100<10,000 pS/m

Non-Conductive Liquids = <100 pS/m

In the tables below, 1 conductivity unit (C.U.) = 1 picosiemen per meter (pS/m)

This video is a bit slanted for a lawsuit, but the video footage does demonstrate the significant impact a simple flame arrestor makes in flammable liquids safety!  I need to state that a gas container in and of itself is NOT a hazard, but the fuel inside the gas container is a HAZARD.  Although I would NEVER recommend the use of these plastic containers for fuel, to state the container itself is the hazard and the fuel inside is somehow not hazardous is just plain STUPIDITY and lawyer talk for a lawsuit.  But the video does have merit in showing the hazards of ANY gas container that is NOT equipped with a flame arrestor.

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Many of us got a "chuckle" from the 2013 Photo of the Week #42 (Smoking & Flammables) but here is proof it is NOT a laughing matter.  We continue to see people who seem to forget that gasoline is a highly flammable liquid and that ignition sources like matches, lighters and lit smoking materials are a MAJOR NO-NO when pumping your fuel.  This horrific accident happened over the weekend - VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

SafetyCab with Ivan

A few months back I posted an article about flammable liquid storage cabinets and I used this image in the article.  After more than 5,000 views I thought I would ask the question... What's wrong with the picture?  Only four people have sent me an e-mail or phone call about the photo.  Now this photo is merely a "marketing photo" for selling the cabinets, but some safety professionals think the image sets a poor example of flammable liquid safety.  How many potential issues (seen or unseen) can you identify in the image?  Click on "read more" below for a larger version of the image.

Three workers are in critical condition with burns after the barge they were cleaning exploded.  No one has said if the workers were inside the barge when it exploded; but from the visual damage I would say they were not inside it but most likely on top of it.  The barge(s) last held a flammable liquid called "natural gasoline" and were being cleaned at the time of the accident. Natural gasoline is a volatile natural gas product with an octane rating between 30 and 40. Natural gasoline was used as an early automotive fuel, but is used in the present day as a feedstock for gasoline, paint thinner, solvents and cleaning products.  US Coast Guard officials have said the cause of the explosion was a spark that was generated during cleaning.

A 46-year-old shipping and receiving clerk died from burns he received in an accident involving the ignition of diesel fuel. The victim's duties included checking the level of fuel in the fuel tanks on refrigerated trailers that would be used the next day to transport processed product and refill the tanks if needed. On the night of the accident, he drove his fuel truck to where two refrigeration trailers were parked and got out of the truck to check the fuel levels. He approached the first truck and removed the fuel cap from the tank, setting it on the top of the tank. Since it was dark outside, he could not see the level of fuel inside the tank. He had a cigarette lighter in his pocket so he flicked on the lighter over the tank opening to illuminate the interior of the tank. When he did this, the diesel fuel ignited and sprayed diesel fuel on the victim. With his clothes on fire, he dropped to the ground and rolled in an attempt to put out the flames. When this did not work, he attempted to awake the driver of the second truck who was asleep inside the truck, but could not rouse him. He then walked approximately 550 feet, with his clothes still on fire, across the gravel parking lot to the plant where he climbed two flights of stairs and entered the maintenance shop. Employees in the maintenance shop were able to extinguish the flames and call emergency services. The victim was transported to a local hospital. He died two months later.

A 61-year-old powered-industrial truck operator died after his forklift ruptured a pipe containing a solvent mixture and the vapors ignited.  The victim was operating his forklift in an area between a stacker and a printing press in order to pick up a waste pallet and transport it to the recycling area.  Some part of the forklift struck an overhanging pipe containing toluene and ethyl benzene dislodging a ball-valve assembly and dousing the victim and forklift with the solvent mixture.  The victim drove the forklift forward and then back under the flowing solvent, then drove the lift to the stairs below a bank of meters and ball valves.  He dismounted the lift and walked up the stairs and closed the correct ball valve to stop the solvent stream.  He went back down the stairs to the forklift.  At this point a co-worker asked him how he was and he replied “I’m burning.” While the co-worker went to stop the printing press and obtain solvent-collection devices to contain the spill, the victim drove the forklift to the locker rooms where showers were located.  The forklift was found in the hallway near the locker rooms where the solvent vapors had ignited and burned the victim and the lift.  Emergency responders and the local fire department were called.  The victim died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. 

In many instances, emergency venting is provided through pressure relieving devices such as weighted cover style emergency vents, loose manhole covers, rupture or burst disks, remote-actuated relief devices, or other pressure relieving equipment that may be used in place of pressure relieving tank designs. Although less recognized, in legacy installations the weak roof-to-shell seam construction technique may be used as emergency venting. Remember that in double-walled tanks, equal capacity venting must be provided for both the primary tank and the secondary containment vessel.

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