6 min read

COVID-19 is a fire hazard – maybe that’s stretching the facts a bit

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When will we stop talking about COVID-19? Not yet it appears. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has determined that hand sanitisers containing either ethanol or isopropanol are classified as flammable liquids.

This means they must be stored according to the safety data sheet SDS instruction. As both these alcohol types are classified flammable liquids they represent a fire hazard. So it appears because of their flammability, alcohol-based sanitisers and some of their other ingredients have a potential to harm persons and property.

Ethanol solution (95%)

UN: 1170

Class: 3

Packing Group: II

Flash point: 13°C

Isopropanol (Isopropyl Alcohol)

UN: 1219

Class: 3

Packing Group: II

Flash point: 14°C

And I thought hand sanitisers were there to save us. According to regulations, flammable liquid storage areas require ventilation and fire protection in place. Let’s be practical. That doesn’t mean that if you have a hand sanitiser in your briefcase you need to carry a fire extinguisher as well.

Where there is common sense:

  • When hand sanitisers are provided for use in vehicles do not leave them on dashboards or in the sun and store away from heat and ignition sources within the vehicle. That’s common sense.

And then there is no common sense:

  • Mobile phones can be an ignition risk if operated in close proximity to flammable liquids such as refuelling the car. So if I’m in the office, does this mean ‘no mobile phones’ or ‘no hand sanitisers’?

  • And what about PPE? Do I need to supply disposal gloves and masks before using hand sanitisers?

Take a deep breath, what you need to do is practice ‘due diligence’ within the scope of common sense. Ask your staff, read the SDS information and work it out from there.

Life is just full of COVID – 19 decisions…