Download the PDF file: Hazardous Materials
There are many products that we use in the home with little thought about their flammability and volatility, that is, how easily they could start a fire with careless use or storage.
- fuels used for lawnmowers and power tools
- fuels used for heaters
- paint thinners and solvents
- cleaning products
- pool chemicals
- aerosols which use flammable propellant gas
- acetone (nail polish remover) and
- solvent based glues.
Fire Safety Notes
Fuels for lawn mowers and other tools
Petrol (including two stroke) is highly flammable and gives off explosive vapours.
Fuels used for heaters
Some heating appliances burn ethanol (or methylated spirits) or kerosene.
See also - Home Fire & Life Safety Fact Sheet “Home Heating.”
Paint thinners and solvents
Turpentine and other petroleum-based solvents are highly flammable and give off explosive vapours.
Methylated spirits and white spirit are sometimes used for household cleaning purposes.
Chemicals used for chlorinating swimming pools may react with other stored chemicals that could result in a fire starting.
Granular pool ‘chlorine’ (calcium hypochlorite) may start a fire if it comes into contact with:
It also reacts with acids to release the toxic gas chlorine, so must be stored separately from acids such as pool acid (hydrochloric acid).
Liquid pool ‘chlorine’ (sodium hypochlorite solution) is a corrosive liquid. It also reacts with acids to release chlorine and must be stored separately from pool acid (hydrochloric acid).
The different types of pool chemicals - granular pool ‘chlorine’, liquid pool ‘chlorine’ and pool chlorine tablets - should not be mixed or used together. Some combinations are incompatible and may cause fires or explosions.
Aerosols with flammable propellant gas
Common household products such as:
They are often sold in aerosol form. If the aerosol uses a flammable propellant gas they should not be used near an open flame (bbq grill, lit gas cooktop, lit candle, pilot light) or while smoking.
Acetone is commonly used in the home for removing nail polish, dissolving certain types of glue and as a paint thinner. It is highly flammable and gives off explosive vapours.
Solvent based glues and adhesives
Many glues and adhesives used around the home are solvent based. When the solvent evaporates it may become an explosive gas.
Storage Of Flammable Fuels And Solvents
The storage of highly flammable liquids is regulated by The South Australian Dangerous Substances Regulations 2002.
In a domestic (unlicensed) situation the storage of highly flammable liquids must not exceed 120 litres and the container sizes must be no greater than 60 litres. This does not include fuel in the fuel tanks of vehicles and equipment.
Quantities in excess of this require a license under the Dangerous Substances Regulations and must be stored in accordance with the requirements of Australian Standard 1940-2004 ‘The Storage and Handling of Flammable and Combustible Liquids’.
All flammable liquids must be stored in suitable containers and labelled appropriately. Metal containers are suitable, providing they are of good quality and are well sealed but do not store them on the ground as condensation can cause the metal to rust. The only suitable plastic containers are those specifically manufactured for the purpose of fuel storage and must meet the requirements of Australian Standard 2906 ‘Fuel containers, portable, plastic and metal’.
The containers should be stored in a well-ventilated place, clear of electrical equipment and other potential heat and ignition sources. Food and drink containers, or glass containers, must not be used for the storage of fuels.
Do not store flammable liquids inside a house or building where people sleep, including in garages which are built under the main roof of the house.
Disposal Of Cleaning Rags
Rags that have been used with petrol, methylated spirits, turpentine, white spirit, acetone, solvent based glues and petroleum-based paint thinners should be dried in a well ventilated area (to remove the volatile vapours) before disposal.
Rags that have been used with drying oils, such as linseed oil, or oil-based paints may self-heat and spontaneously ignite if they are not properly dealt with after use. A drying oil is an organic oil which dries in normal air temperature. Linseed oil, poppy oil, walnut oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil are known as drying oils.
Rags used with oil-based paints or glazes, linseed oil or other drying oils should be either immersed in water or spread out flat (not bynched up or folded) in a safe place to dry immediately after use. If it is necessary to transport oil or paint-soaked rags, they should be carried in sealed metal containers.
Garden Chemicals And Pesticides
All garden chemicals and pesticides should be stored in a secure place where children cannot gain access. A lockable cupboard or steel cabinet located above a child’s reach is the best storage.
Chemicals should be kept in their original containers which will have labels giving their correct name and the proper safety precautions.
If the product needs to be diluted before use, make up a sufficient supply for the day’s activities. Any remaining material should be discarded appropriately unless it is to be kept in a properly-labelled container. Food and drink containers must never be used for the storage of garden chemicals or pesticides.
Some chemicals may be flammable or reactive. Take care to ensure that incompatible materials are not stored together.
In South Australia, the storage and use of hazardous substances and dangerous goods in the workplace is regulated by SafeWork SA, who can be contacted for further information via their website: http://www.safework.sa.gov.au.