by Thomas Hawk
It is important for employers to take adequate precautions in regard to protecting their employees from the dangers of flammables and explosives in the workplace. A flammable is considered to be any substance that can easily catch fire and then burn. An example of an inflammable, Xylene is a chemical that is widely used in different workplaces. It is also a chemical that, depending on its condition, can easily catch fire. However, when Xylene is cooled to a temperature that is below its flashpoint, there is little risk of this chemical burning up.
When discussing flammables and explosives in the workplace, you will need to understand what the term flashpoint refers to. This is in fact a temperature (lowest) at which a substance starts giving off vapors that can easily catch fire and burn. Remember however, that it is the vapor that will burn and it is not the substance itself that burns.
Anything that is inflammable or which is an explosive will certainly end up posing a real danger to those who come near to or actually make contact with such substances. Explosives in particular can undergo tremendously quick chemical reactions which can cause them to give off heat and gas which can potentially cause great harm to anyone that comes into contact with such gas and heat.
In order to ensure that your employees are protected from flammables and explosives in the workplace you must ensure that all equipment giving off heat and/or sparks must be removed from the proximity of flammables and explosives. This means that equipment such as a pump, stirrer, hotplate and any other thing that creates an open flame must be removed from the presence of explosives and flammables. There are other ways of heating flammables including making use of heating mantels or even water baths.
It is also important to ensure proper ventilation which will help in keeping the chemicals from reaching their lowest flammable limits. This in turn has the effect of minimizing vapor from being released and that in turn will help ensure making the workplace a whole lot safer.
Those materials that have lower flashpoints must be marked out with the help of yellow colored and red colored labels. To further safeguard the workplace from flammables and explosives, it is recommended that these should only be stored where they cannot easily be knocked over. So, do not place them on bench tops or in hoods.
When you place dangerous substances in cabinets and the cabinets are vented then it is important to ensure that the vent pipes are equipped with flame arresters. Also, keep the cabinet doors locked and closed and never store flammables in a lab refrigerator unless the latter is explosion proof.
While cleaning up the workplace, it is recommended doing so with proper absorbents. For example, for this, you may want to use vermiculite which prevents vapors from going up in the air. Carbon absorbents are also useful. Any chemical that is badly affected when its temperature rises is known as an explosive. There are several safety precautions that need to be taken when storing or handling such explosives. In fact, explosives should be handled very carefully because even the slightest mechanical shock can make them react and explode.
Charlie Bentson King is a Vice President for Workplace
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