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.
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.