Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Flammables: A Hot Safety Issue

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Flammables: A Hot Safety Issue

Article excerpt

In September, during a "fire tornado" demonstration at the Discovery Museum in Reno, Nevada, a mixture of boric acid and methanol exploded, injuring 13 people. Using flammable substances during demonstrations and experiments has caused many high school laboratory accidents as well. Besides potentially causing injury, such accidents also pose liability issues for teachers, so it's important to know how to store and use flammable materials correctly. Follow these guidelines:

General guidelines

* Check flammable chemicals' Safety Data Sheets for use and storage information.

* Always lock storerooms and cabinets containing flammables.

* Never allow students to enter or work in chemical storerooms or hazardous-chemical cabinets.

* Never store flammables on top of cabinets or shelving.

* Store flammables in cool, well-ventilated areas separate from corrosives, oxidizers, and ignition sources. Do not expose them to direct sunlight.

* Wear indirectly vented chemical-splash goggles, gloves, and splash aprons when working with flammables.

* Make sure there is appropriate ventilation to accommodate vapors or fumes from flammables.

* Have a spill kit available at all times.

* Safety shielding is required when there is a risk of explosion, splashes, or highly exothermic reactions.

Guidelines for flammable liquids

* Flammable liquids should be stored in commercial flammable-liquid cabinets. Vents should be plugged since venting may prevent the cabinet from protecting its contents. Conspicuously label storage cabinets.

* Use only clearly labeled refrigerators that have been designed for flammable-liquid storage.

* Do not store flammable liquids with flammable aerosols.

* Limit quantities to the minimum needed. Quantities should not exceed 225 liters (60 gallons)/cabinet and 450 liters (120 gallons) total.

* When safety cans are used, up to 95 liters (25 gallons) may be stored outside a flammable-storage cabinet, though local authorities and insurance companies may set a different standard.

* Always use bonding and grounding when dispensing flammable liquids. Bonding can be direct, such as a wire attached to both containers, or indirect, such as through a common ground system.

* When grounding nonmetallic containers, contact must be made directly with the liquid. …

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