Monthly Archives: April 2015

Working With Solvents – Controlling Sources of Ignition

In this post, our focus is on the flammability aspect of solvents. Most commonly used solvents are known for their flammability. However, there are often other concerns that the user does not consider such as development of chemical sensitivity, development of dermal de-fatting, carcinogenic, organ, systemic and other short-term or long-term health effects. Commonly used flammable solvents include: acetone, MEK, lacquer thinner, ethyl acetate, ethanol, methanol, toluene, and others.

Before using any chemical, read the product label for the material(s) and the SDS (Safety Data Sheet). Follow product use directions. Properly protect yourself from exposure; wear appropriate PPE. Control sources of ignition. Dispose of contaminated materials and waste liquids properly.

Here are some other user tips:

Always keep containers closed when not in use.
Use solvents in a well-ventilated area.
Use bonding or grounding equipment to prevent static sparks.
Maintain a spill clean-up kit in the area.

In some industries, solvents are used to clean equipment. For example, in the laboratory setting sometimes acetone or other volatile solvent is used to clean vacuum pumps. While the likelihood of fire or health risk is low if proper procedure is followed, sometimes the operator may unwittingly put themselves at risk. In one case, laboratory personnel routinely cleaned their fume hood vacuum pumps by circulating acetone through them and capturing the pup discharge into an open container. Doing so would result in the liberation of volatile fumes that generally were present at below the LEL (lower explosion limit). However, in a specific case, the operator was cleaning a vacuum pump with acetone unaware that the pump electric motor had not been upgraded to an intrinsically safe, explosion proof model. As a result of having a pump in inventory that was not explosion proof, the pump did spark and ignite the acetone vapors. Fortunately for the operator, he was wearing safety eyewear and a face shield and only suffered minor first degree burns to his hands.

It is obviously important to identify all possible ignition sources when working with volatile chemicals. Sources may include electric motors that are not intrinsically safe – especially ones that the operator does not actively control such as pumps and motors that are on auto start circuitry. To learn more about requirements for the use of electrical equipment in hazardous locations, refer OSHA 29 CFR 1910.307:; UL (Underwriter Laboratories) UL Standard 1203:; and also NFPA 499, Recommended Practices For The Classification Of Combustible Dusts and of Hazardous (Classified) Locations For Electrical Installations In Chemical Process Areas published by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) here:

We’ll talk more about static electricity as a possible ignition source in an upcoming post.

Injury and Illness Prevention Programs in the Workplace

According to OSHA:

“Injury and Illness Prevention Programs are universal interventions that can substantially reduce the number and severity of workplace injuries and alleviate the associated financial burdens on U.S. workplaces. Many states have requirements or voluntary guidelines for workplace injury and illness prevention programs. Also, numerous employers in the United States already manage safety using Injury and Illness Prevention Programs and we believe that all employers can and should do the same. Most successful injury and illness prevention programs are based on a common set of key elements. These include: management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification, hazard prevention and control, education and training, and program evaluation and improvement.”


The anticipated I2P2 program for a Federally-unified workplace injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) administered by OSHA has been delayed. While employers are already responsible for finding and correcting workplace hazards, this program would have unified IIPP practices. Many states have their own IIPP requirements – California for one having an IIPP element in their Cal/OSHA Title 8 for decades. Despite the delay in the implementation of a Federal IIPP, it is prudent and recommended practice for employers to manage workplace injury and illness prevention in keeping with IIPP elements.

See also the OSHA VPP program web page:

Transportation – Vehicle Safety: Seat Belts

There are many safety aspects related to the operation of a commercial vehicles.  Do you require and/or allow employees to use their personal vehicles for company use? While we will cover more details in a later post, today’s topic is simply about seat belts. Do you require that all operators and passengers wear their seat belts? It is a fact that seat belts save lives. But people still don’t wear them and that decision is far is too often the last significant one they will make – because the outcome can be fatal. The best excuse we have heard from a driver for not buckling up was this: If they were in a wreck and knocked unconscious, how could they get out of the car if they were belted in! Staying in the vehicle in a wreck – especially a roll-over greatly increases the odds of survival. Buckle up! There will be more to follow on vehicle fleet operations in up-coming posts.


Ergonomics is loosely defined as fitting a job or task to a person (instead of trying to make the person fit the job). The overarching factors of ergonomics include:

  1. ensuring that the individual is fit for duty – that is, physically able and prepared for the job tasks;
  2. providing a suitable work environment that will minimize the likelihood of work-related MSD’s (musculoskeletal disorders).

According to OSHA,

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves and tendons. Work related MSDs (including those of the neck, upper extremities and low back) are one of the leading causes of lost workday injury and illness. Workers in many different industries and occupations can be exposed to risk factors at work, such as lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures and performing the same or similar tasks repetitively. Exposure to these known risk factors for MSDs increases a worker’s risk of injury.”

Also according to OSHA, the process of protecting workers includes:

  1. Providing management support;
  2. involving workers;
  3. providing training;
  4. Identifying problems;
  5. encouraging early reporting of MSD symptoms;
  6. implementing solutions to control hazards;
  7. evaluating progress.

For more information, visit the OSHA ergonomics page:

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