Many industries handle, store, and transport fuel every day. But because gasoline and other types of fuel are extremely flammable, there are certain safety measures that must be followed in order to promote worker safety and avoid catastrophic accidents.
Is your organization in compliance with the transportation of flammable liquids regulations and protocols? Do you know how to identify and store class 3 flammable liquids? Here we discuss important safety tips, best practices, and proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for any company who works with fuel on a regular basis.
What is a Class 3 Flammable Liquid?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), class 3 flammable liquids are liquids that have a flashpoint at or above 73.4 °F (23 °C) and at or below 140 °F (60 °C).
By flashpoint, OSHA means the minimum temperature at which a liquid gives off enough vapor to ignite in the air. In a sense, the term "flammable liquid" is a bit of a misnomer, because it's not the liquid itself catching on fire but rather the vapors these liquids give off as they come into contact with air.
Examples of class 3 flammable liquids include:
- Ethyl chloride
- Petroleum ether
Not to be confused with flashpoint, a flashback is an explosion and/or fire that occurs even if the source of the flammable liquid is several hundred feet or even multiple floors away. This dangerous phenomenon happens because vapors can escape from fuel containers and pool in poorly ventilated areas like basements, sewers, and trenches. When these residual vapors come in contact with an ignition source, it can trigger a fire that will follow the vapor trail all the way back to the initial flammable liquid source.
Class 3 Flammable Liquid by the Industry: Statistics
Several industries in the United States partake in storing, handling, and transporting class 3 flammable liquids. This includes shipping and trucking, healthcare, laboratory, oil and gas extraction, manufacturing, construction, military, transportation, and even the death care industry—not including the number of Americans from the public domain who handle and/or use fuel every day too.
Sadly, thousands of fuel-related injuries and fatalities occur annually in the United States, in both the public and private sector. One 2018 paper published in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion estimated that of the gasoline-related injuries and deaths occurring between 1995 and 2014 in the U.S., the majority of them (56% and 82%, respectively) were related to thermal burns. Ingestion via inhalation is another leading danger related to this class of liquids.
Certain industries, including oil and gas extraction, appear to be particularly risky for workers who handle flammable liquid materials. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 70 American oil and gas rig workers lost their lives on the job in 2017, and a majority of these deaths occurred while transporting fluids.
Because class 3 flammable liquids are capable of producing ignitable vapors, they pose a serious risk of explosion. Fuel-related explosions can readily cause a variety of injuries, some fatal, including burns, blunt force trauma, and smoke and/or vapor inhalation.
Current Best Practices for Handling, Storing, and Transporting Fuel
If your company is involved in receiving fuel, fueling vehicles and equipment, filling portable containers, or related tasks, it's essential to ensure your entire team is aware of the proper standards and protocols for handling, storing, and transporting class 3 flammable liquids. OSHA offers detailed guidance on this matter, which can be found in OSHA standards 1917.156 and 1926.152.
To explore more specific guidelines surrounding best practices for fuel transportation and storage, consider the following.
How to Store Class 3 Flammable Liquids
- Only use approved containers and portable tanks for storage and handling
- Never store flammable liquids near stairways, exits, or any areas normally used for safe passage
- Never store flammable liquids near heat, and always store them in well-ventilated areas
- Don't store more flammable liquid than is needed
- Ensure that dispensing hoses are no longer than 50 feet when transporting fuel from vehicle to vehicle
- Unless contained within an approved storage metal or wood cabinet, no more than 25 gallons of flammable liquids can be stored in a room
- Approved storage cabinets should be clearly labeled: "Flammable: Keep Away From Open Flames"
- Approved storage cabinets cannot contain more than 60 gallons of class 3 flammable liquids; quantities exceeding 60 gallons must be stored in approved storage rooms that meet the required fire-resistive ratings
According to OSHA, storage containers are not considered integral components of machinery or equipment. This explains why gas tanks found on lawn mowers or tractors are not considered storage containers, and therefore do not fall under the same regulations.
How to Transport Class 3 Flammable Liquids
Transporting flammable liquids introduces a wide range of hazards. Mitigating these hazards involves several extensive standards and guidelines, including the following:
- Only allow designated workers to transport and handle these flammable liquids
- Anyone who has received general hazmat training can transport containers with less than 8 gallons of liquid and weighing less than 440 pounds
- Anyone transporting over 119 gallons, or 1,001 pounds of class 3 flammable liquids must have a commercial driver's license (CDL); ideally, they will also receive extensive additional training
- Only use approved portable tanks and containers, which must include emergency vents (to decrease pressure in fire conditions) and at least one pressure-activated vent
- All shipments must include safety data sheets, with larger shipments requiring an emergency response guide and hazmat bill of lading
- All shipments and containers in transportation must be appropriately labeled
How to Receive and Handle Class 3 Flammable Liquids
- Workers should not be on equipment and equipment should be powered off while refueling
- Ensure that there are spill kits handy for quicker clean-up in the event of a spill
- Keep a working fire extinguisher close by
- Ensure fuel caps remain properly closed whenever workers are not filling or gauging
- Ensure all workers are well-versed in the operating manuals of the vehicles and equipment they use for fuel-related tasks; this includes knowing how to find and operate emergency shut-offs or fuel cutoffs
- Always place portable fuel containers on the ground when filling, and avoid from overfilling
Under no circumstances should smoking be allowed near fuel trucks or fuel containers.
PPE Needed for Fuel Handling, Transportation, and Storage
Flammable liquids can damage a worker's skin and eyes and cause severe internal damage if ingested or inhaled. Clothing contaminated with flammable liquids may also pose a safety hazard, such as by triggering a fire in a dryer.
To this end, all workers handling fuel on a regular basis should have access to appropriate PPE to protect their bodies and clothing. This may include goggles, respirators, gloves, shoe covers, sleeve covers, or coveralls. Disposable PPE can be especially beneficial as this reduces the risk of cross-contamination.
Both PyroGuard FR® and PyroGuard CRFRTM protect against flames and pass ASTM D6413 vertical flame resistance testing and meet NFPA 2113 requirements for section 5.1.9. PyroGuard CRFRTM increases a wearer’s safety level by also protecting against more aggressive chemicals, acids, and caustics in addition to flames.
Staying in compliance with class 3 flammable liquid protocols is important for your organization not only for legal reasons but also for the health and safety of your workers and the greater community. Even everyday liquids like gasoline can pose serious health hazards and safety risks unless safety standards and protocols are adequately maintained.
If you are exploring disposable PPE options for your workforce, contact International Enviroguard today to learn about a wide range of solutions.