Flammable liquid storage and handling presents a unique situation for facility managers. Unfortunately, federal agencies that regulate flammable liquids provide little guidance on whether or not those liquids can be stored in plastic containers.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes that there are two main hazards associated with flammable liquids: explosion and fire. And while storage and handling is a highly regulated subject, neither OSHA nor the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) explicitly state whether flammable liquids can be stored in plastic containers.
OSHA requires companies to take “adequate precautions…to prevent the ignition of flammable vapors” [29 CFR 1910.106(e)(6)]. The NFPA requires facilities to be equipped with storage areas to prevent flammable liquids from being discharged and that non-metallic equipment used with flammables must safeguard against static electricity.
Plastic is a static-prone material that can’t be adequately bonded and grounded to prevent electrical buildup and a potential fire or explosion. Therefore, it’s safest to handle and store flammable liquids in steel equipment, such as a UN rated steel drum and steel spill containment pallet. Steel is less likely to melt in a fire and can be bonded and grounded to prevent static buildup.
Your local OSHA office, fire marshal and insurance company can also discuss fire codes as well as flammable and combustible liquid regulations specific to your facility or facilities.
A small investment of time spent from the outset consulting with these knowledgeable parties could help your company avoid major regulatory headaches and the possibility of fire or explosion.