Difference Between Flammable and Combustible (Explained)

Flammable and combustible materials may sound similar, but they have distinct differences when it comes to their properties and risks. Understanding these differences is crucial for maintaining workplace safety and preventing accidents. In this article, we will explore the disparity between flammable and combustible substances and delve into their definitions, meaning, and associated risks.

difference between flammable and combustible

Key Takeaways:

  • Flammable materials have a flash point at or below 60°C, while combustible materials have a flash point above 60°C.
  • Flammable liquids are more volatile and can ignite at normal working temperatures, while combustible liquids require higher temperatures for ignition.
  • Examples of flammable liquids include gasoline, acetone, benzene, and methyl alcohol.
  • Examples of combustible liquids include diesel fuel, kerosene, and engine oil.
  • Both flammable and combustible liquids pose fire risks and should be stored and handled safely.

What are Flammable Liquids?

Flammable liquids are liquids that give off a flammable vapor at temperatures not exceeding 60°C, as determined by the flash point test. These liquids pose a higher risk of ignition as their flash points are lower, making them more volatile. Flammable liquids can easily ignite at normal working temperatures, making them a significant fire hazard.

Examples of flammable liquids include:

  • Gasoline – commonly used as a fuel for vehicles, with a flash point of -40°C to -45°C.
  • Acetone – a solvent used in various industries, with a flash point of -17°C.
  • Benzene – a chemical used in the production of plastics, with a flash point of -11°C.
  • Methyl alcohol – also known as methanol, used as a solvent and fuel, with a flash point of 11°C.

It is important to handle and store flammable liquids with care to prevent accidents and ensure workplace safety.


Table: Examples of Flammable Liquids

Liquid Common Uses Flash Point
Gasoline Fuel for vehicles -40°C to -45°C
Acetone Solvent in various industries -17°C
Benzene Production of plastics -11°C
Methyl alcohol Solvent and fuel 11°C

What are Combustible Liquids?

Combustible liquids are liquids that have a flash point above 60°C but below 93.3°C. Unlike flammable liquids, combustible liquids require higher temperatures for ignition. These liquids have a lower volatility compared to flammable liquids and are less likely to ignite at normal working temperatures. However, they still pose fire risks and need to be handled with caution.

Common examples of combustible liquids include:

  • Diesel fuel
  • Kerosene
  • Engine oil

These liquids are commonly used in various industries, such as automotive, construction, and manufacturing. While they may not be as volatile as flammable liquids, proper storage and handling procedures should still be followed to minimize the risks associated with their use.

Risks Associated with Combustible Liquids

Although combustible liquids require higher temperatures for ignition, they can still pose significant fire hazards if not handled properly. Improper storage, handling, or a failure to control ignition sources can lead to fires, explosions, and other accidents in the workplace. It is essential to understand the specific risks associated with combustible liquids and take appropriate measures to mitigate them.

Risks Potential Consequences
Fire and Explosion Damage to property, injuries, loss of life
Release of Toxic Vapors Health hazards, respiratory issues
Chemical Reactions Uncontrolled reactions, additional hazards

Proper storage, handling, and control of ignition sources are crucial to prevent accidents involving combustible liquids. It is important to follow industry regulations and guidelines to ensure the safety of workers and the workplace environment.

Risks Associated with Flammable and Combustible Liquids

Flammable and combustible liquids pose significant risks in various environments. Understanding these risks is crucial for ensuring the safety of individuals and preventing accidents. Here are some of the dangers and hazards associated with these types of liquids:

Dangers of Flammable and Combustible Liquids

  1. Fire Hazards: Both flammable and combustible liquids can easily ignite and lead to fires. The vapors of these liquids are invisible and can ignite when exposed to an ignition source, such as an open flame or spark. Fires caused by these liquids can spread rapidly and cause extensive damage.
  2. Explosions: Flammable and combustible liquids can also result in explosions when their vapors mix with air in certain concentrations. This can occur in confined spaces, creating a highly volatile environment.
  3. Release of Toxic Smoke: When flammable or combustible liquids burn, they can release toxic smoke and fumes, which can be harmful to human health. Inhaling these toxic substances can cause respiratory problems and other serious health issues.
  4. Reactivity: Flammable and combustible liquids can react dangerously if they come into contact with incompatible substances. This can lead to further chemical reactions, increasing the risk of fire, explosions, or the release of hazardous gases.

Hazards of Flammable and Combustible Liquids

In addition to the above dangers, flammable and combustible liquids can also cause physical harm and pose certain hazards:

  • Burns: If a person comes into direct contact with these liquids or is exposed to their flames, they can suffer from burns. Burns can range from minor injuries to severe, life-threatening conditions.
  • Intoxication: Ingesting or inhaling flammable or combustible liquids can lead to intoxication, which can affect a person’s cognitive abilities, coordination, and overall well-being. This can result in accidents and impair judgment, leading to further harm.

It is crucial to handle and store flammable and combustible liquids with care to minimize these risks and hazards. Following proper safety procedures, such as storing them in compliant containers, ensuring adequate ventilation, and implementing measures to control ignition sources, can help mitigate the dangers associated with these liquids.

Dangers Hazards
Fire Hazards Burns
Explosions Intoxication
Release of Toxic Smoke
Reactivity

How to Store Flammable and Combustible Liquids?

Proper storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids are essential to prevent accidents and minimize the risks associated with these hazardous materials. Following established guidelines and regulations, such as the Australian Standard AS 1940:2017, can help ensure the safety of employees and the workplace.

Storage Requirements

When storing flammable and combustible liquids, it is important to consider several key factors:

  • Safe Containers: Use approved containers specifically designed for storing flammable and combustible liquids. These containers should be made of sturdy materials, have tight-fitting lids, and be properly labeled.
  • Fire-Resistant Cabinets: Store flammable and combustible liquids in fire-resistant cabinets that comply with OSHA and NFPA requirements. These cabinets provide an extra layer of protection in case of fire.
  • Ventilation: Ensure adequate ventilation in storage areas to prevent the buildup of flammable vapors. Ventilation systems should be designed to remove vapors and maintain air quality.
  • Separation: Keep flammable and combustible liquids separated from each other and from other incompatible substances. Flammable liquids should also be stored away from ignition sources, such as electrical equipment, open flames, and heat sources.

Handling Precautions

In addition to proper storage, safe handling practices are crucial when dealing with flammable and combustible liquids:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Employees working with these hazardous materials should wear appropriate PPE, such as gloves, safety glasses, and fire-resistant clothing.
  • No Smoking Policy: Strictly enforce a no smoking policy in areas where flammable and combustible liquids are stored or handled.
  • Spill Containment: Have spill containment measures in place, such as spill kits, absorbent materials, and designated spill control stations.
  • Training and Education: Provide comprehensive training to employees on the safe handling, storage, and emergency procedures related to flammable and combustible liquids.
Storage Guidelines Flammable Liquids Combustible Liquids
Flash Point (°C) At or below 60°C Above 60°C
Storage Temperature Keep below the flash point temperature No specific temperature requirements
Approved Storage Containers Approved flammable liquid containers Approved combustible liquid containers
Fire-Resistant Cabinets Recommended Recommended
Ventilation Adequate ventilation required Adequate ventilation required

By adhering to these storage and handling guidelines, businesses can minimize the risks associated with flammable and combustible liquids, create a safer work environment, and ensure compliance with industry regulations and standards.

Flash Point vs Auto-Ignition Temperature

When it comes to understanding the behavior of flammable and combustible materials, two important terms to know are flash point and auto-ignition temperature. These terms help us understand the conditions under which these materials can ignite and pose a fire hazard.

The flash point of a substance is the temperature at which it releases a vapor capable of ignition when exposed to an ignition source. It indicates the lowest temperature at which a material’s vapors can catch fire. On the other hand, the auto-ignition temperature is the temperature at which a substance will spontaneously ignite without an ignition source. It signifies the minimum temperature needed for a substance to ignite on its own.

It’s important to note that the flash point is always lower than the auto-ignition temperature. This means that a substance must reach its flash point before it can ignite, but once it reaches its auto-ignition temperature, it will ignite without any external ignition source. For example, petrol has a flash point between approximately -40°C to -45°C, making it highly volatile and easily ignitable, while its auto-ignition temperature is around 280°C.

The difference between the flash point and auto-ignition temperature is crucial for understanding the safety risks associated with flammable and combustible materials. It helps us determine the conditions under which these materials can catch fire and allows us to implement necessary safety measures to prevent accidents and protect lives.

Controlling Ignition Sources in the Workplace

Preventing ignition of flammable vapors is crucial for maintaining workplace safety. Ignition sources are potential triggers that can lead to fires and explosions. By identifying and controlling these sources, the risk of accidents can be significantly reduced. Some common sources of ignition include:

  • Open flames: Such as candles, matches, or cigarette lighters
  • Sparks: Generated by electrical equipment, machinery, or friction
  • Hot surfaces: Heat-producing equipment or objects
  • Static electricity: Accumulation of electrical charges

To control ignition sources, it is important to implement the following measures:

  1. Keep flammable liquid stores away from ignition sources: Flammable liquids should be stored in designated areas that are separate from potential ignition sources. Proper ventilation and fire protection systems should also be in place.
  2. Prohibit entry into flammable liquid handling areas with ignition sources: Access to areas where flammable liquids are handled should be restricted to authorized personnel only. This helps minimize the risk of accidental ignition.
  3. Provide training for staff to identify and eliminate ignition sources: Employees should be educated on the potential sources of ignition in the workplace and trained on safe practices to prevent accidents.

By taking these precautions and being mindful of potential sources of ignition, employers can create a safer environment for their employees and reduce the risk of fires and explosions.

Ignition Sources Preventive Measures
Open flames Avoid using open flames in areas where flammable vapors may be present. Use alternative ignition sources, such as electric heating equipment.
Sparks Regularly inspect electrical equipment and machinery to identify any potential sources of sparks. Implement grounding techniques and use proper insulation to prevent sparks.
Hot surfaces Ensure that heat-producing equipment and objects are properly maintained and insulated. Implement temperature control measures and use protective barriers where necessary.
Static electricity Implement grounding techniques, such as anti-static flooring and clothing, in areas where static electricity can be generated. Regularly inspect and maintain electrical systems to prevent static buildup.

Conclusion

Understanding the difference between flammable and combustible materials is crucial for workplace safety. Flammable liquids, with their lower flash points, are more volatile and can ignite at normal working temperatures. On the other hand, combustible liquids require higher temperatures for ignition. Both types of liquids pose fire risks, and it is essential to store and handle them safely.

By following proper storage and handling procedures, such as those outlined in the Australian Standard AS 1940:2017, the risks associated with flammable and combustible liquids can be minimized. This includes provisions for spill containment, adequate ventilation, and complete separation from ignition sources. Safety cabinets that meet OSHA and NFPA requirements should be used for storage.

Moreover, controlling ignition sources in the workplace is crucial to prevent the ignition of flammable vapors. Identifying and eliminating potential ignition sources, such as open flames, sparks, hot surfaces, and static electricity, is paramount. Prohibiting entry into flammable liquid handling areas with ignition sources and providing training for staff to identify and eliminate ignition sources further enhance workplace safety.

In conclusion, by understanding the differences between flammable and combustible materials, and implementing proper storage, handling, and ignition control measures, the risk of fires and explosions can be significantly reduced in the workplace.

FAQ

What is the difference between flammable and combustible materials?

The key difference lies in their flash point, which is the lowest temperature at which the vapors of the material will ignite when exposed to an ignition source. Flammable liquids have a flash point at or below 60°C, while combustible liquids have a flash point above 60°C. Flammable liquids are more volatile and can ignite at normal working temperatures, while combustible liquids require higher temperatures for ignition.

What are flammable liquids?

Flammable liquids are liquids that give off a flammable vapor at temperatures not more than 60°C, as determined by the flash point test. These liquids pose a higher risk of ignition as their flash points are lower, making them more volatile. Examples of flammable liquids include gasoline, acetone, benzene, and methyl alcohol.

What are combustible liquids?

Combustible liquids are liquids that have a flash point above 60°C but below 93.3°C. Unlike flammable liquids, combustible liquids require higher temperatures for ignition. Common examples of combustible liquids are diesel fuel, kerosene, and engine oil.

What are the risks associated with flammable and combustible liquids?

Flammable and combustible liquids can pose significant fire risks. The vapors of these liquids are invisible and can easily ignite, leading to fires, explosions, and the release of toxic smoke. They can also react dangerously if combined with incompatible substances. In addition to fire hazards, these liquids can cause burns and intoxication.

How should flammable and combustible liquids be stored?

Flammable and combustible liquids should be stored and handled safely to minimize the risks. This includes provisions for spill containment, adequate ventilation, complete separation from ignition sources, and proper segregation from incompatible chemicals. Safety cabinets that meet OSHA and NFPA requirements should be used for storage.

What is the difference between flash point and auto-ignition temperature?

The flash point of a substance is the temperature at which it releases a vapor capable of ignition when exposed to an ignition source. On the other hand, the auto-ignition temperature is the temperature at which a substance will spontaneously ignite without an ignition source. The flash point is lower than the auto-ignition temperature.

How can ignition sources be controlled in the workplace?

To prevent ignition of flammable vapors, it is crucial to control and eliminate ignition sources in the workplace. Common ignition sources include open flames, sparks, hot surfaces, and static electricity. By implementing measures such as keeping flammable liquid stores away from ignition sources, prohibiting entry into flammable liquid handling areas with ignition sources, and providing training for staff to identify and eliminate ignition sources, the risk of fires and explosions can be significantly reduced.

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