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Environmental Health & Safety

Flammable Liquid Storage In Laboratories

Flammable liquid solvents are used in many laboratories. Some of these materials include alcohols, acetone, and ethers. Personnel must store and use flammable liquid solvents properly to maintain a safe working environment. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 45 limits the quantity of flammable and combustible liquids in laboratories. The quantity depends upon the construction of the laboratory, the fire protection built into the laboratory, and the type of laboratory. They recommend flammable liquids be stored in flammable liquid storage cabinets or safety cans.

There are times when a lab procedure may require the use of cold solvents. For efficiency, labs may store the solvents in the closest refrigerator. The storage of flammable liquids in a standard refrigerator presents a hazard to laboratory personnel. A container failure or small leakage from several containers inside a standard refrigerator may result in the generation of vapors that may reach the lower explosive limit for the chemical. A spark from a thermostat, the light bulb or the compressor may result in the ignition of these vapors. A flammable material storage refrigerator/freezer is designed not to spark inside the unit and is required for the storage of cold flammable solvents. The use of a flammable storage refrigerator/freezer for flammable solvents is required by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 45, 1991, A-9-2.2.2).

Strategic planning may be required if a protocol requires the use of a cold flammable solvent. Several different models are available based on the temperature desired and the size or amount of storage space available. Several researchers may wish to purchase a single unit for a group to use.

If additional information is needed for the storage of chemicals in your work location, please consult the University of Rochester’s Chemical Hygiene Program, the chemical’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or call the Industrial Hygiene Unit at x5-3241.


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Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

This page last updated 11/24/2010. Disclaimer.