Question: Can I store drums of flammable liquids on polyethylene containment pallets? Do they meet National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards?
Answer: Given the risks involved with handling and storage of flammable liquids, the safest approach is to store them on steel containment pallets that can be bonded and grounded to prevent static build up. Steel pallets are also less likely to melt in a fire.
Even though the storage and handling of flammable liquid is highly regulated, Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) and the NFPA offer no specific direction about plastic spill containment devices being safe for storing flammables.
Both, however, require that flammable liquids be stored, dispensed and handled safely. For example:
- OSHA requires “adequate precautions… to prevent the ignition of flammable vapors. Sources of ignition include… static…sparks” 29 CFR 1910.106(e)(6).
- NFPA 1 Fire Code 126.96.36.199 requires storage area design to prevent flammable liquids from being discharged. Plastic pallets would melt in a fire, allowing discharge.
- NFPA 30 Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code 188.8.131.52 requires non-metallic equipment used with flammables to be “designed to provide equivalent safeguards against static electricity.”Plastic is inherently static-prone. Unlike steel and other metals, there really isn’t a good way to bond or ground plastic to drain the static charge from the pallet, which presents a hazard, especially in areas with low humidity and when fluids are being transferred to or from a container.
Local fire marshals and insurance carriers are two additional resources for advice based on particular situations at your facility.