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Take 5 for Safety: Flammable and combustible liquids

By Ashleigh Petersen

October 1, 2022

Take 5 for Safety is a monthly article designed to give equipment and event rental stores the information they need to conduct a five-minute safety meeting on a particular topic. Below are talking points for this month’s meeting. The Take 5 for Safety signup sheet can be downloaded below. This can be used to take attendance during the meeting.

Introduction: One of the leading causes of fires in the equipment and event rental industry is the improper disposal of rags with chemicals on them, according to ARA Insurance. Properly storing flammable and combustible liquids and liquid-soaked rags is crucial to lowering the risk of fire.


Combustible: A liquid with a flash point more than 100°F.

  • Examples: Diesel fuel and motor oil.
  • Hazard: May produce ignitable vapors at elevated temperatures.

Flammable: A liquid with a flash point under 100°F.

  • Examples: Gasoline, acetone, toluene, diethyl ether and alcohols.
  • Hazard: May produce ignitable vapors at normal ambient temperatures.

Best practices: The following best practices are from the Small Business Safety and Health Handbook — created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). These are meant to be used as a general guide.

  • Combustible scrap, debris and waste materials (oily rags, etc.) are stored in covered metal receptacles and promptly removed from the worksite.
  • Approved containers and tanks are used to store and handle flammable and combustible liquids.
  • All connections on drums and combustible liquid piping are vapor and liquid tight.
  • All flammable liquids are kept in closed containers when not in use, such as parts cleaning tanks, pans, etc.
  • Where flammable liquids are transferred and dispensed, appropriate grounding and bonding methods are used to minimize the generation of static electricity.
  • Have mechanical or gravity ventilation inside storage rooms for flammable and combustible liquids.
  • Explosion-proof electrical wiring, lights and equipment are used in inside storage rooms used for flammable liquids.
  • “NO SMOKING” signs are posted in areas where flammable or combustible materials are used and stored.
  • All solvent wastes and flammable liquids are kept in fire-resistant, covered containers until they are removed.
  • Safety cans are used for dispensing flammable or combustible liquids at the point of use.
  • Spills of flammable or combustible liquids are cleaned up promptly.
  • Storage tanks are adequately vented to prevent the development of excessive vacuum or pressure as a result of filling, emptying or atmosphere temperature changes.
  • Storage tanks are equipped with emergency venting that relieve excessive internal pressure caused by fire exposure.

Training video: To help ensure employees are properly trained, American Rental Association (ARA) members can access the “Flammable and Combustible Liquids” course on RentalU. After reviewing this training video, participants should be able to recognize flammable liquids and their training requirements under a HAZCOM program, identify properties of flammable and combustible liquids, identify the hazards associated with these chemicals and more. To access the video, visit and search “flammable.”

Sources: Iowa State University; NIOSH; OSHA