Surface Preparation » Flammable and Combustible Liquids

Flammable and combustible liquids, including paint, solvents, and preservative removers, are used in all aspects of vessel repair. The use, storage, and containment of these materials pose hazards to employees.

This section primarily focuses on the storage and containment of flammable and combustible liquids. For more detailed information regarding these materials, see the following:

Review the Confined or Enclosed Spaces and Other Dangerous Atmospheres and Hot Work Operations before proceeding with this section.

The storage and containment of flammable and combustible liquids can expose workers to the following hazards:

Figure 2: Drums and containers of flammable cleaning solvents.

Potential Hazards

Fire and explosions may be caused by:

Figure 3: Worker spray painting in enclosed space increases fire hazard.Figure 4: Warning sign clearly informs workers of fire and explosion hazards of smoking and hot work in a spray area.

Requirements and Example Solutions

Figure 5: Shipyard Competent Person testing flammability and other hazards in spray area.
Figure 6: Workers protected from toxic cleaning solvents.

Potential Hazards

Toxic vapors and mists produced by flammable and combustible liquids may present significant health hazards when transferred, mixed, or stored. These materials produce vapors that are often heavier than air, and can become highly-concentrate in confined and enclosed spaces, causing displacement of oxygen and increasing health risks.

Figure 7: Ventilation provided for painting in confined space.

Requirements and Example Solutions

  • A hazard assessment must be made to determine the proper selection of respirators. [29 CFR 1915.152(b)]
    • Many epoxy, anti-fouling, and coal tar pitch paints may cause respiratory damage, skin sensitization and possible life-threatening allergic reactions. Use of these materials required special precautions:
      • Air-line respirators
      • Gloves
  • Respirators must be used in accordance with 29 CFR 1915.154. [29 CFR 1910.134]
Figure 8: Airline respirator for use when ventilation does not provide adequate safety.

Additional Resources

Figure 9: Improper practice - Worker exposed to health hazards from skin absorption and eye contact.

Potential Hazards

Employees working with flammable and combustible liquids are at risk of harm if skin or eye contact occurs.

  • Organ damage through skin or eye absorption.
  • Skin or eye burns and irritation.
  • Ingestion of contaminated food.
Figure 10: Worker protected from toxic paint fumes with proper PPE.

Requirements and Example Solutions

  • A hazard assessment must be made to determine the proper selection of PPE. [29 CFR 1915.152(b)]
  • The face, eyes, head, hands and all other exposed body parts of employees handling highly volatile paints shall be protected. [29 CFR 1915.35(b)(9)] Also see PPE: Painting module.
  • Spills or other releases of flammable, combustible, toxic, corrosive and irritant materials must be cleaned up as work progresses. [29 CFR 1915.13(b)(5)]
    • When clothing becomes saturated with flammable and combustible liquids, clothing should be changed immediately.
  • Workers must be trained in the hazards and precautions of the materials they work with in accordance with the Hazard Communication Standard. [29 CFR 1915.1200]
Figure 11: Worker using washing facilities.

Additional Information

  • Hazard Communication Guidelines for Compliance. OSHA Publication 3111, (2000).
  • Hazard Communication. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page.
Figure 12: Eye wash station.
  • Fixed or portable eye wash stations/safety showers should meet ANSI Z358.1-1998: Emergency Eye Wash and Shower Equipment.
Figure 13: Portable electrical tools must be double insulated or properly grounded.

Potential Hazards

Employees mixing or transferring flammable and combustible liquids with electrical equipment are exposed to increased risk of getting shocked or electrocuted due to:

  • Faulty electrical connection in power tools.
  • Open lighting parts.
  • Broken insulation on power cords.

Note: Arcing and spark producing tools are not to be used where flammable liquids are capable of creating a flammable atmosphere. [29 CFR 1915.36]

Figure 14: Worker inspecting broken insulation on power cable.

Requirements and Example Solutions

  • Portable electrical tools must be grounded or double insulated. [29 CFR 1915.132(a)]
  • Temporary lighting must be grounded. [29 CFR 1915.82(b)(8)]
  • Power and lighting cables must be inspected by a person competent to evaluate electrical hazards. (Note: This is not the Shipyard Competent Person). [29 CFR 1915.36(a)(5)]
Figure 15: Visual inspection takes defective welding tong out of service.
  • All electrical tools or equipment should undergo a visual inspection prior to use.
  • All portable electric hand tools and temporary lighting systems should utilize Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI).
  • Electrical tools and equipment should correspond with the requirements of the job.
  • Electrical equipment and tools should be used with proper circuit protection for the voltage and amperage used.
  • Only qualified electricians should attempt repair of electrical tools and equipment in use.
  • A Ground Assurance Program should be in place for all electrical tools and equipment used including:
    • Records of tools inspected and repaired.
    • Records of electrical boxes inspected and repaired.
    • Records of electrical extension cords inspected and repaired.
    • Recall of records of the above.
  • The requirements of the Ground Assurance Program should be performed on a regular basis.