Don’t neglect ongoing prevention practices, especially with regard to combustible liquids.

According to a popular ’80s tune, “You can’t start a fire without a spark.” But, that one spark can put you out of business.

A source of ignition, such as a spark caused by friction or an electrical short, can develop into a devastating fire. Solvents, paints, oils, varnish and wood present a serious hazard if proper controls are not in place. Combustible/flammable liquids not only help a fire to get going, but large quantities also can mean the difference between a small fire that is easily extinguishable and one that is out of control.

Oftentimes it is impossible to determine the source of ignition for a large fire involving combustible/flammable liquids. In some cases, an electrical short circuit or improper disposal of a cigarette is suspected.

The fact is, a fire emanating from improper storage of flammable liquids does not need an ignition source outside of itself. Spontaneous combustion can occur when materials are not properly stored and when no one is around to react.

Check Your Shop Daily

Ensuring that flammables are properly stored and controlled is not a one-time task. Conditions in your shop change everyday, along with changing processes, equipment, jobs and people. It is important to have a routine self-inspection process in place to help make sure your combustible/flammable liquids and solvents are secure. Some things to check regularly include the following:

1. Flammable liquids dispensing from drums should be appropriately bonded and grounded to reduce the potential for ignition from static electricity.

2. Safety containers with an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listing or with an FM approval (issued by FM Approvals LLC) or original manufacturers’ containers are generally the safest places to store combustible/flammable liquids.

3. Combustible/flammable containers should be closed when not in use and should not be stored near exits, portable heaters, electrical switchgear or equipment, passageways or near exits.

4. UL-listed or FM-approved storage cabinets, rather than ordinary cabinets, should be used for storage of combustible/flammable liquids. The cabinet doors should be kept closed.

5. More than 120 gallons of combustible/flammable liquids should not be stored in a single cabinet.

6. More than three cabinets should not be located in a single fire division, unless they are separated by at least 100 feet.

7. All combustible/flammable containers should be stored in closed cabinets when not in use.

8. Consider having a flammable liquids storage room when the amount of combustible/flammable liquids exceeds 360 gallons. The storage room should meet the National Fire Protection Association Volume #30 requirements (e.g., self-closing fire door, suitable electrical wiring, proper exhaust ventilation, diking, grounding and bonding).

9. UL-listed/FM-approved containers should be used for the storage of saturated rags.

10. Spills should be cleaned as soon as they occur.

Flammable and combustible liquids are likely present in your woodworking shop. Please do not hesitate to contact your insurance agent/risk control representative or local fire department if you have any questions on whether you are taking the necessary precautions to help prevent fires.

This article was provided by CNA Insurance Co.

Notice: The information, examples and suggestions presented in this material have been developed from sources believed to be reliable, but they should not be construed as legal or other professional advice. CNA accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this material and recommends the consultation with competent legal counsel and/or other professional advisors before applying this material in any particular factual situations. This material is for illustrative purposes and is not intended to constitute a contract. Please remember that only the relevant insurance policy can provide the actual terms, coverages, amounts, conditions and exclusions for an insured.

All products and services may not be available in all states and may be subject to change without notice. CNA is a service mark registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Copyright © 2007 CNA. All rights reserved.

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