We all remember adults warning us not to play with fire. And we listened. That is, we listened until we decided to pursue a career that involved working with materials that could explode if handled improperly. It’s a living, and the best way to make that living safely is to know the common risks of hazardous materials storage.
Fire and Explosion
Three components make up a fire: heat, oxygen, and fuel. When it comes to reducing this common hazardous material storage risk, your facility should reduce the material’s exposure to these three components, especially heat. Common ways to reduce heat sources include:
- Avoiding “hot work” like welding near material storage sites
- Prohibiting smoking in the facility
- Keeping the area well ventilated
- Ensuring electrical components are kept updated
- Inspecting equipment to avoid overheating
Additionally, you should monitor potential sources of increased oxygen and fuel. Do your best to avoid materials like plywood and fiberboard that catch on fire easily.
Note On IBC Totes
Intermediate bulk containers are a popular method of storing and transporting hazardous materials of all types. However, using the wrong type of tote with flammable materials can lead to serious safety risks for your facility. Regulations are in place to ensure facilities only use flame-resistant materials for their totes, such as stainless steel.
Those working directly with hazardous materials face the greatest risk. Improper storage that causes leaks can lead to serious health issues for those exposed. Depending on the material, this may look like:
- Chemical burns
- Worsening of breathing issues
- Throat irritation
Some symptoms aren’t immediately apparent and show up after consistent exposure over a long period. These may include disease, breathing conditions, and even birth defects.
Sometimes, the danger to one’s immediate surroundings isn’t as obvious as an explosion or chemical burn. When materials get stored improperly, it can lead to leaks that seep into and accumulate in the surrounding environment. Hazardous materials in the soil, water, and air can lead to the poisoning of natural resources, such as animals and crops we use for food. Be sure to follow EPA regulations, especially when disposing of stored goods.