Hand sanitizer storage property risk management guide

Hand sanitizer storage property risk management guide

Hand sanitizers use ethyl or isopropyl alcohol as the active ingredient in a solution to kill viruses and bacteria.

The CDC recommends an alcohol content of at least 60 percent for hand sanitizers to be most effective, including for killing the coronavirus COVID-19.  As such, most alcohol-based hand sanitizers manufactured and used in the U.S. are 60 to 90 percent alcohol by volume.

Why does storage matter and what is the hazard?

Hand sanitizers are flammable liquids

In general terms, the flash point of a liquid is the temperature at which the liquid will ignite when exposed to an open flame. Due to the high concentrations of alcohol, hand sanitizers will largely take on the flash point of the alcohol present, which, for both ethanol and isopropyl alcohol based solutions, is below 70°F. Meaning, at ambient conditions, hand sanitizers are flammable liquids that will ignite if exposed to an open flame.

Plastic containers present a fire protection challenge

Hand sanitizer is typically stored in plastic containers, which presents a unique and challenging fire hazard. When plastic containers are exposed to a fire’s radiant heat or direct flame, they begin to melt and fail. This causes the ignitable contents to be rapidly released into the fire. In a warehouse storage array, rack and solid pile storage can further exaggerate the fire protection challenge due to the potential for multidimensional and large pool fires which can quickly overwhelm the automatic sprinkler system.

Inadequate protection can mean an uncontrolled fire

If the area where hand sanitizer is stored is inadequately sprinkler protected, the entire contents of that area is often expected to be involved in the fire. If more than an incidental amount of hand sanitizer is stored in a warehouse, storage, or production area, pending fire walls or other passive construction protection features, the fire scenario is often a total loss of the building and contents, regardless of installed sprinklers.

Prevention measures to consider

Until adequate fire protection can be implemented, take the following measures to reduce the risk of an uncontrolled fire:

Protection for your property

Due to the highly challenging nature of fire involving hand sanitizer in plastic containers, very few proven sprinkler protection options are available. Consider the following protection measures for your property:

Summary

Hand sanitizer storage within a facility must be tightly controlled due to the significant fire hazard. Protection options are limited. Your Liberty Mutual Risk Engineering Consultant will provide recommendations based on site specific conditions to help minimize the frequency and severity of a fire involving flammable hand sanitizer storage.

Additional resources

NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquid Code, 2018 Edition.

 

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Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so please ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

 

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification.

This website is general in nature, and is provided as a courtesy to you. Information is accurate to the best of Liberty Mutual’s knowledge, but companies and individuals should not rely on it to prevent and mitigate all risks as an explanation of coverage or benefits under an insurance policy. Consult your professional advisor regarding your particular facts and circumstance. By citing external authorities or linking to other websites, Liberty Mutual is not endorsing them.