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 ECU Launches LiveSafe, a mobile safety app, today!

Flammable Use Safety

Flammable Liquid  Any liquid having a flash point below 100°F
Combustible Liquid  Any liquid having a flash point above 100°F and below 200°F
Flammable Gas  A material that is a gas at 68°F (20°C) or less and at 101.3kPa (14.7psi or 1atm) of pressure. Compressed gases may have a number of hazards depending upon the gas. They may be: Flammable, toxic, asphyxiant, cryogenic as well as being subject to explosive pressure release.
Flammable Solid ;A non-explosive material that is capable of producing fire as a result of friction, heat retained from production or which, if ignited, produces a serious transportation hazard (e.g. metal dusts and compounds, some are also water reactive, e.g. lithium). 

The most common fire hazard in the laboratory is ignition of the vapor that collects above flammable liquids.  Flammables maintained in the lab are required to be tightly capped when not in use.  The minimum amount needed for the immediate work should be out on the bench top and kept in an appropriate closed container when not in use.  No more than 10 gallons of flammable liquid may be present in any lab outside of a flammable storage cabinet.

Fires Require:

  • Fuel (supplied by the flammable liquid vapor)
  • Oxygen (supplied by room air)
  • An ignition source (heat or spark)

More of one of these components can reduce the amount required of another.

While it is possible for there to be too little fuel to support combustion, it is also possible for there to be too much - reducing the available oxygen to support burning.  Unfortunately, the fuel level will begin to dissipate bringing the fuel back into its flammable range without warning.

Flash Point The lowest temperature at which a liquid has a sufficient vapor pressure to form an ignitable mixture with air near the surface of the liquid. Many common organic liquids have a flash point below room temperature, e.g. Acetone (-40°F, -20°C) or Diethyl Ether (-49°F, -45°C). 
Limits of Flammability  The range of concentrations in which vapors or gases, when mixed with air (Oxygen), can ignite and burn. 
LEL  Lower Explosive Limit- Concentrations below this level are too lean to burn. 
LFL  Lower Flammable Limit- Concentrations below this level are too lean to burn. 
UEL  Upper Explosive Limit- Concentrations above this level are too rich to burn. 
UFL  Upper Flammable Limit- Concentrations above this level are too rich to burn. 
Auto Ignition Temperature  The minimum temperature required to initiate or to cause self-sustained combustion independent of the heat source. A spark or flame is not necessary for ignition when a flammable vapor reaches its auto-ignition temperature (Diethyl Ether 320°F, 160°C) it can be as simple as a hot plate. 
Sources of Ignition  Open flames, heating element, electrical appliances, refrigerators, heat guns, stirrers, lab equipment, etc. 
Vapor Density  Flammable gases and vapors from a flammable liquid can be denser than air. They can spread over bench and floor surfaces to sources of ignition which are apparently remote and may pool in low spots such as a cabinet base, sump, drain or pit. 
Pyrophoric   Can ignite with no external ignition source within five minutes after coming in contact with air. 

General Acute Health Effects

Inhalation Headache, fatigue, dizziness narcosis 
Ingestion  Gastrointestinal irritation, dizziness, fatigue 
Absorption  Skin- Dry, cracked, chapped, potential rash
Eye- Irritation, watering, inflammation 
Injection  Depends upon chemical 

General Chronic Health Effects

Will vary depending upon chemical, duration of exposure, extent of exposure. Damage to lungs, liver, kidneys, heart and/or central nervous system may occur. Cancer and reproductive effects are also a possibility.
Hydrocarbons Narcotic, but systemic toxicity is relatively low 
Aromatic Hydrocarbons  Narcotic agents. Overexposure to vapors can lead to loss of muscular coordination, collapse, unconsciousness (e.g. Benzene: Toxic to bone marrow and can cause leukemia) 
Ethers  Exhibit strong narcotic properties and for most part are only moderately toxic 
Esters  Vapors irritate eyes, nose and upper respiratory tract 
Ketones  Systemic toxicity is not generally high 
Alcohols  Vapors moderately narcotic, suspected carcinogens 

Flammable Storage and Use

  • Store flammables in a storage cabinet when not in use
  • Store only in an explosion proof or laboratory safe refrigerator
  • Do NOT store in a standard refrigerator or cold room
  • Store the minimum necessary for immediate work
  • Do NOT heat with open flame or use near open flames
  • Use in areas free of ignition sources
  • Ground both containers and bond them together when transferring flammable liquids to prevent ignition from static spark
  • Transfer only minimal quantities to glass containers

Flammable liquids should be stored in a flammable storage cabinet.  No more than 10 gallons of flammable liquids including the amount contained in solutions, waste containers and continuous processes can be stored in a lab outside of a flammable storage cabinet.  The cabinet does not supply ventilation but only protects the flammable liquids in the event of a fire to allow occupants time to escape before the fire accelerates.  Be sure you do not exceed the rated capacity of the cabinet.  The standard capacities are 30, 45, 60, and 120 gallons.

Fire Emergency Response 

Fire Assistance From a safe location call:
East Campus- 911
Health Sciences Campus- 911 or 744-2247 
Fire Evacuation Alarm  When you see, smell or are aware of an uncontrolled or imminent fire hazard, pull the alarm on your way out. 
Evacuation Route  Plan ahead, shut down experiments and equipment only if it is safe to do so, never use elevators for evacuation, and plan for disability/handicap evacuation 
Designated Evacuation Areas  Meet at the designated evacuation location to assure everyone is out. 
Fire Extinguisher  Extinguishers located in labs are type ABC suitable for wood, cloth, paper, rubber, plastic, and oil, grease, solvents and electrical equipment fires.
If you use or store combustible metals you will need a type D extinguisher as well. 
Extinguisher Use for Small Fires Only  Use of fire extinguishers should be trained individuals only.
ECU trains using the P.A.S.S. method:

Pull the pin
Aim at the base of the fire
Squeeze the handle lever
Sweep the nozzle side to side

Report any extinguisher use to EH&S and Facilities Services 
Other Methods for Small Fires  Extinguish by smothering with a non-flammable material such as an inverted beaker or metal trash can. Stay calm. If you are not sure you can extinguish the fire- Call for help.