• Hand Sanitizer: Fire Safety Considerations


    With the pandemic in full swing, the use of hand sanitizers has increased tremendously. Since most hand sanitizers contain a solution of a minimum of 70% alcohol, concerns have been raised regarding the safe handling and storage of these products. With much misinformation being circulated on the topic on the internet, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) decided to produce a video that provides clear and factual information. The video can be viewed here. Here are some insights from watching the NFPA video.

    NFPA states that hand sanitizers are categorized as flammable liquids. A typical hand sanitizer contains 70% alcohol and has a flash point of 63–64°F, which is below most room temperatures and only needs an ignition source to ignite and begin flaming. That is because the hand sanitizers give off sufficient vapors that, in the presence of oxygen in the air, will ignite when exposed to a flame.


    NFPA goes on to tell viewers that the small amount that is used on the hands is not a safety concern and provides the rationale as to why it is safe to use the product in this manner. The safety concern is with the storage of hand sanitizers, especially in large quantities, which presents a high fire risk that needs to be addressed. Storage quantities over 5 gallons would need to comply with NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code. That code requires protection, such as storing the large quantities of hand sanitizers in a flammable liquids storage cabinet (available from Brooks) or in an area protected by an automatic fire sprinkler system. Typical users, like hospitals, will have these protections in place, but due to the pandemic, more companies are using hand sanitizers. With high usage, there are new safe storage concerns. This means there are likely opportunities to provide the necessary flammable liquid storage cabinets to end-users that are now storing large quantities of hand sanitizer products.

    NFPA has a catch phrase for what is taking place called “change management”. This term is something that many facility managers use frequently to re-evaluate their original fire protection and safety protocols. It simply means that any time a change is made to equipment, materials, or processes, an evaluation is conducted to determine whether the change will compromise existing strategies for fire protection and facility safety. Often, this evaluation will create an opportunity for you to install additional safety products.

    If your customers have provided new hand sanitizer stations, they may also be storing quantities of these products that may need a reassessment of their current fire protection. According to NFPA 30, the safest storage includes either sprinkler protection or storage in a flammable liquids storage cabinet.

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    Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above Tech Series article are the author’s only and provide limited information. Although the information is believed to be reliable, Brooks Equipment Company, LLC expressly disclaims any warranty with respect to the information and any liability for errors or omissions. The user of this article or the product(s) is responsible for verifying the information’s accuracy from all available sources, including the product manufacturer. The authority having jurisdiction should be contacted for code interpretations.