TASB Risk Management Fund

Is Your Hand Sanitizer a Fire Risk?

September 23, 2020 Nicole Callahan

OSHA fire hazard pictogram

Throughout the pandemic, health officials have promoted hand hygiene as a powerful COVID-19 preventative measure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says using hand sanitizer is the second-best strategy, behind washing with soap and water. Alcohol, which is hand sanitizer’s key germ-fighting ingredient, also presents a potential fire risk. If your organization purchased hand sanitizer in bulk, you should know how to store it safely.

6 safe-storage tips

These six general safety tips will help protect employees and students from the fire hazards associated with hand sanitizer. Bulk purchases must include a safety data sheet (SDS) that provides specific instructions for safely handling, transporting, and storing your product. If the shipment does not arrive with an SDS, immediately contact the manufacturer, distributor, or importer.

  1. Consult the experts. Local fire codes across the state regulate flammable liquid storage. For more information and guidance, talk to your legal counsel and your local fire marshal or the state fire marshal. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are also good sources of information on working with flammable liquids. For example, NFPA 101 includes national standards for alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Other standards worth consulting include NFPA 30, NFPA 45, and NFPA 77.
  2. Choose a safe room. Hand sanitizer’s flash point is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid storing your product in warm environments and areas where other flammables are housed. Examples include janitorial closets and transportation shops. Instead, choose a temperature-controlled warehouse, maintenance building, or other facility where students are not present. In the photo to the right, a TASB member stored bulk hand sanitizer in a classroom, putting staff and student safety at risk.
  3. Pay attention to placement. When you identify a safe storage room, keep the container away from potential ignition and heat sources such as wall outlets, machinery, thermostats, and food service areas. You should also steer clear of exits, stairs, or walkways. Bulky items can cause tripping injuries or keep employees from getting out quickly during an emergency.
  4. Use metal storage cabinets when appropriate. Once a shipment is delivered, you are responsible for ensuring it is in a compatible container and properly stored. Refer to the SDS for details. If you are storing more than 25 gallons of hand sanitizer or other flammable liquid, use a metal storage cabinet specifically designed for chemicals. Limit each cabinet to 60 gallons. Cabinets must be labeled in conspicuous lettering: "Flammable-Keep Away from Open Flames."
  5. Install a grounding kit. Transferring hand sanitizer from a bulk container to smaller containers could create a static charge. A grounding kit drains the charge and prevents sparks that could ignite flammable vapors in the air. Remember to limit individual hand sanitizer dispensers to 1.21 liters.
  6. Prepare for spills. Accidents happen, even in the safest workplaces. Consider purchasing a spill deck to capture and contain hand sanitizer. You must also keep a spill kit near your bulk container. The kit should include personal protective equipment, chemical absorbents, neutralizers, and other tools for safely cleaning up and disposing of spilled chemicals.

Take advantage of the value of membership

The Fund’s online training package, delivered at no additional charge, empowers our members to train their employees when it is convenient. Workers’ Compensation program members can assign their employees the Chemical Spills Overview course. Property program members benefit from the Fire and Explosion Hazards course. The course covers everyday products that can create hazards if they are used or stored incorrectly. As always, members can contact your risk solutions consultant for advice about flammable material and other safety hazards

Tagged: chemicals, compliance, "school safety"