Tips on prevention of laboratory fire accidents

Safety cabinet for storage of Flammable solvents

Safety cabinet for storage of Flammable solvents (Image Credential : www.eagle-mfg.com)

Fire accidents in laboratories can cause immeasurable damage in terms of serious injuries to laboratory workers, damage to expensive instruments and laboratory facilities, financial losses and loss of man days. Fire hazards in the laboratory outlines the types of flammable laboratory materials and classification of fires based on the nature of such materials.

The present article provides some useful tips that can prevent occurrence of such accidents.

Useful Tips

Refer to Material Safety Data Sheets

First and foremost every laboratory worker needs to be familiar with the nature and hazards of materials before handling such items. This can be achieved through spreading awareness on material safety data sheets which should be made a mandatory requirement before any analysis work is taken up.

Avoid naked flames

The days of Bunsen burners are going down history as more and more laboratories are resorting to hot plates and heating mantles to meet the heating requirements. Naked flames can result in unexpected explosions in contact with flammable vapours.

Storage of flammable liquids

Store only required minimum quantities of flammable solvents and liquids inside laboratories. Excess quantities should be stored in separate well ventilated rooms with no exposure to direct sunlight and preferably in specially designed storage cabinets. Do not stock any other materials along with flammable materials

Make use of fume hoods

Fume hoods are generally used when carrying out acid digestions. Fume hoods should also be used with exhaust fans on when working with flammable liquids capable of releasing ignitable vapours. After use ensure that the bottles are left securely capped

Clean flammable liquid spills on priority

Flammable liquid containers should be carried in solvent trays. Do not hold Winchesters from the neck. It is important to clean any accidental spill on priority to avoid formation of explosive vapours.

Electrical short circuits

Electrical short circuits often result in sparks which can lead to spontaneous explosions in contact with flammable vapours. You can prevent such incidents trough routine checks

  • Inspect all wires and connections. Loose connections can result in short-circuits
  • Keep your laboratory premises free of rodents as they have a habit of damaging cables which can result in short circuits
  • Do not overload power points with multiple devices as this can lead to exceeding of the sanctioned loads
  • Follow prescribed maintenance schedules of all electrical equipments. This will prevent accidents and prolong their useful life span
  • Ensure that all laboratory instruments have proper earthing
  • Do not carry out welding or soldering operations in the vicinity of flammable solvents
  • Remember to transfer flammable liquids between containers after inter bonding them with conducting wires and grounding to prevent development of static electricity

It has been rightly said that ‘Prevention is better than Cure’. Do not wait for fire accidents to happen. Adopt the safety guidelines and minimise chances of fire accidents from taking place.

About Dr. Deepak Bhanot

Dr Deepak Bhanot is a seasoned professional having nearly 30 years expertise beginning from sales and product support of analytical instruments. After completing his graduation and post graduation from Delhi University and IIT Delhi he went on to Loughborough University of Technology, UK for doctorate research in analytical chemistry. His mission is to develop training programs on analytical techniques and share his experiences with broad spectrum of users ranging from professionals engaged in analytical development and research as well as young enthusiasts fresh from academics who wish to embark upon a career in analytical industry.

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