OSHA: Response to Query Regarding Storage and Handling of Combustible Flammable Liquids

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: September 23rd, 2011
Topics: Fire Protection | Materials Handling & Storage |

Retrieved from: Occupational Safety & Health Administration


Clairol, Inc., is concerned as to the applicability of 29 CFR 1910.106(d)(5)(vi), specifically Notes 2 and 3 of Table H-14, to the storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids in Clairol’s Stamford warehouses. Through your cooperation, Mr. Joseph Bode of my staff and Mr. Michael Moore of the Safety Standards Development staff, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), visited the Clairol facilities in Stamford on August 22, 1986, to evaluate the circumstances surrounding Clairol’s warehousing operations. The review of the warehouse storage operations included the facilities known as Blachley Road and Harborview. At the time of our visit the following Clairol representatives were present: Mr. Lawrence Schopp, V.P./Counsel; Mr. James L. Mazurek, Distribution Manager; Mr. Bob Bristol, Safety Director; and yourself. 

The evaluation of the storage procedures, operations, andfacilities was conducted with Clairol’s concern as the primary focus. However, in order to fully evaluate employee safety at these facilities, additional standards that interplay with the situation were also discussed. 

The general standard for evaluation of Clairol’s warehousing operation is 29 CFR 1910.176. The special equipment and procedures for inter-locking the stacked cartons and the previous Clairol analysis concerning stack stability, offered by Mr. Bristol, as well as the routine Clairol inspections of stack integrity, appear to meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.176. Furthermore, the mechanical handling equipment used was observed to be suitable to the task. 

The standards at 29 CFR 1910.106(d) pertain exclusively to the storage of flammable and combustible liquids in containers and portable tanks. Since these standards were adopted from the NFPA 30-1969 Code, Flammable and Combustible Liquids, they pertain to the safety and security of physical assets as well as to employee safety. Therefore, it is necessary for OSHA to evaluate specific workplaces relative to potential employee hazards before invoking specific requirements of these standards. 

The storage restrictions, found in the Notes to Table H-14 limiting the distances that flammable liquids may be stored from aisles and establishing a minimum width of aisles or the distances between stored piles, are primarily intended to provide easy access to stored material for the purposes of fire extinguishment and control. 

In workplaces protected by an acceptable automatic fire extinguishing system, such as sprinklers, where employees are not permitted to fight fires and are required to evacuate immediately from work areas involved in fire, the property protection function of aisle access becomes academic. With no employees in the workplace, there is no need for employee access to the stored material. Employee protection from the fire hazard has been provided through evacuation. Safe [exit] from the building is required by 1910.106(d)(5)(i). 

In the case of workplaces protected by automatic fire extinguishing systems where employees are permitted to fight fires, either as part of an employee fire brigade or as individually designated employees, adequate protection during incipient or interior structural fire fighting is assured through the training and equipment requirements in Subpart L of Part 1910. 

The standards at 29 CFR 1910.36 and 1910.37 describe the requirements for [exit routes] from fire and various emergencies. 29 CFR 1910.106(d)(5)(i) requires that the [exit routes] not be limited by the storage of flammable and combustible liquids. 

The observation and evaluation of both Clairol warehouse facilities at Stamford relative to the various OSHA standards at 29 CFR 1910 indicated the there were some slight deficiencies in regard to the marking of exits. [29 CFR 1910.37(b)] should be reviewed and the additional signs posted to provide for full compliance, as was discussed during our visit. 

Based upon the emergency evacuation plan (a copy of which was provided by Clairol) in effect at each of the Clairol warehouse facilities, the availability of exits and the extensive fire extinguishing systems installed, it is the opinion of OSHA that non-compliance with Note 2 of Table H-14 at 29 CFR 1910.106(d)(5)(vi)(b) is a de minimis violation, unless some unusual circumstances alter the existing situation or procedures. 

As you are aware, de minimis violations are those which impose no hazardous exposures to employees and require no further abatement and result in no penalty assessments.