Acetone has a low toxicity and is a good solvent, making it as useful for removing nail polish as it is for degreasing and paint cleanup on the shop floor, but it also highly flammable. The acetone vapor (remember that vapor causes burns – not liquid) is heavier than air, can travel a considerable distance and can also accumulate in a confined space. Unfortunately, two workers cleaning a paint booth were not aware of the proper precautions to take when dealing with this highly flammable liquid, and were severely injured. The two Evansville, Tennessee companies involved in this incident are to be fined more than $100,000 by Indiana’s OSHA due to their negligence. The Agency alleges that two workers were mopping a large paint booth with acetone when one of the workers accidentally knocked over a halogen light. As it hit the floor, it ignited the acetone fumes into a flash fire. A flash fire is an unexpected, instant, intense fire that is instigated by the reaction.
The Evansville Courier & Press reports that Guardian Automotive is being fined $22,500 for a set of penalties the state categorized as serious. Team Industrial Services Inc., the agency that supplied the workers and instructed them to use the lamp and the cleaner, faces a steeper $84,150 fine. Of that amount, $63,000 is for a violation which state inspectors categorized as “knowing” — the most serious classification, and one used only several times per year, said Jeff Carter, the deputy state OSHA commissioner. “Knowing” violations are those violations where death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.
When dealing with flammable substance, you simply cannot be too careful. Take a few minutes to review the following tips:
1) Know your chemicals, read all labels, and consult the MSDS (material safety data sheet)
2) Remember that vapor burns, not liquid, so always work with adequate ventilation and avoid confined spaces
3) Eliminate potential ignition sources, any heat source is potential ignition source
4) Bond and ground when transferring flammable liquids, it only takes one spark
5) Practice good housekeeping by segregating flammable substances and keeping them covered in closed containers
6) Always use appropriate equipment to apply, transfer and store flammable liquids
- OHSA www.osha.gov
- EPA www.epa.gov
- National Fire Protection Association www.nfpa.com
- International Code Council www.iccsafe.org