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October 31, 2002

Flammable and Combustible Liquids

By Sean M. Alvarez

The storage and use of flammable and combustible liquids requires careful attention and consideration.  In fact, so much consideration is needed that detailed codes, standards and regulations for safe storage and use of flammable liquids have been developed and implemented by numerous groups and agencies. 

In an effort to prevent flammable and combustible liquid fires and personal injury, requirements have been set forth by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the Uniform Fire Code (UFC), the Uniform Building Code (UBC), the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR - OSHA), the International Fire Code (IFC) and others.

Many states have adopted either the NFPA 30 requirements or the UFC requirements.  Many local governments have even enacted codes and ordinances that may be stricter than that of the state.

Among the complex assortment of flammable and combustible liquid requirements, one common factor exists between them.  That is the requirement for classification, use of properly designed containers and proper management and control of quantities of these liquids.

Before you can begin to place materials into proper containers and manage the quantities, you must classify your flammable and combustible liquids.  This is because the container, storage and use requirements differ depending upon the class of liquid you are using or storing.

NFPA 30, the Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code, defines a flammable liquid as "any liquid that has a closed-cup flash point below 100 degrees Fahrenheit".  The code indicates that these materials are classified as Class I liquids.  Class I liquids are further subdivided into IA, IB and IC.

A Combustible liquid is then defined as "any liquid that has a closed-cup flash point at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit".   Combustible liquids are classified as either Class II or Class III depending upon flash points.

To help prevent fires and injury, you should familiarize yourself with the flammable and combustible liquid classification, storage and use requirements that affect you.  You need to understand what type of liquid you are using, which containers are safe to use and which quantity restrictions you may be faced with.  In addition, you need to have proper training on the use of such materials.

Remember, each town, city, state and country may have adopted different codes.  Therefore, a call to your local fire department would be a good way to start learning more about how to work safely with flammable and combustible liquids.

Listed below are some helpful links related to flammable liquids:

"Flammable liquid storage cabinets 29 CFR 1910.106(d)(3)" prepared by Montana Department of Labor and Industry

Washington State University Flammable Storage Policy

Minnesota Uniform Fire Code

Stanford University policy document on Flammable Liquid Storage Cabinets (California)

Department of the Interior sample "Flammable Liquids Program"

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee  Environmental Health, Safety & Risk Management  "NFPA Storage Rules for Flammable Liquids"

University of Rochester Flammable Liquid Storage in Laboratories

US NFPA and Uniform Fire code adoption map

NFPA Online - NFPA 30

University of Houston laboratory flammable and combustible liquid container and storage requirements

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