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Managing Aerosol Storage Hazards

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Aerosol products are widely used by consumers and for industrial applications. Some examples of aerosol products that we come across daily include deodorants, lubricant sprays, pesticide sprays, and even cooking oil sprays. However, a manufacturer or distributor who stores larger quantities of aerosol products faces significant risks and challenges in protecting the product and the property. One such challenge involves the presence of rocketing aerosol cans during a fire that can spread fire to other parts of the building or harm persons, including emergency responders. Following the requirements of the applicable codes and standards ensures the safe management of aerosol storage hazards.

Various research and fire tests conducted in the 1970s and 80s provided information on the fire characteristics of aerosol products, which were treated as Class IA flammable liquids until then. It was determined that some aerosol products presented fire hazards more severe than Class IA flammable liquids. This led to the development of an aerosol product fire hazard classification. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) then developed NFPA 30B, Code for the Manufacture and Storage of Aerosol Products. This code is now widely referenced in building and fire codes for requirements related to aerosol products.

The NFPA 30B classifies aerosol products into three levels based on their chemical heat of combustion values. Typically, the manufacturer would have information on the product’s chemical heat of combustion and include the aerosol classification levels in their Safety Data Sheet (SDS). However, suppose the classification of the aerosol product is not defined in the SDS. In that case, the below table provides the classification requirements based on NFPA 30B.

Aerosol Cooking Spray Products is an exception to the above classification of aerosol products based on the Chemical Heat of Combustion. These are products designed to deliver a vegetable oil or a solid or nonflammable liquid to reduce sticking on cooking and baking surfaces, as defined by NFPA 30B.

If the chemical heat of combustion values are unknown, an alternative approach would be to classify the products based on the data obtained from full-scale fire tests. The fire tests are required to be conducted by an approved testing laboratory utilizing a 12-pallet test array. However, such alternative approaches do not apply to Aerosol Cooking Spray Products. The appropriate classification of the aerosol product is vital in storage areas as the expected fire behavior, and the associated protection requirements vary with the classification level of the aerosol product.

Aerosol Cans in Manufacturing Line

It is crucial not to confuse the flammability hazard symbol on the aerosol products with the aerosol classification. The flammability hazard symbol only indicates the susceptibility of the aerosol spray to ignite, which is essential in conveying and protecting consumers of the potential for a fire when using the product. Therefore, the protection of aerosol product storage hazards should always be based on the appropriate classification level of the aerosol product.

The approach to protecting aerosol product storage involves limiting the quantities stored in a general storage area, keeping the aerosol products in flammable liquid cabinets, or constructing a dedicated storage area/room.

For an entity located in Ontario and required to abide by the regulations of the Ontario Fire Code, the code does not mention specific requirements related to the storage of aerosol products. However, it directs the user to the National Fire Code of Canada (NFCC). The NFCC further provides requirements related to the indoor storage of aerosol products.

In line with the requirements of NFPA 30B, the NFCC allows Level 1 aerosol products to be treated like Class III commodities. Class III commodities are wood, paper, natural fibre, cloth, or Group C plastics, with or without combustible pallets. Some examples of Level 1 aerosol products include shaving cream, window cleaners, rug shampoos, etc. The storage arrangement of Level 1 aerosol products is regulated based on the size of the storage area and the height of storage. In addition, the storage quantities can be increased when the storage is protected with an automatic sprinkler system per the requirements of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. It should be noted that the requirements for storage of Aerosol Cooking Spray Products have been defined separately in NFPA 30B.

The requirements for storage of Level 2 and 3 aerosol products are more restrictive than those for Level 1. Some examples of Level 2 aerosols include personal care products such as deodorants and hair sprays, antiseptics, furniture polishes, etc. Basically, Level 2 aerosol products are water-miscible flammable base products. Some examples of Level 3 aerosols include automotive products such as engine and carburetor cleaners, lubricants, paints, lacquers, etc. The quantity of Level 2 and Level 3 aerosol product storage is determined based on the storage area and arrangement. In addition, the NFCC requires aisles not less than 2.4 m wide separating racks, shelves, or piles of packaged Level 2 or 3 aerosol products.

As per the provisions of the NFCC, up to 1000 Kg (one pallet load) of Level 2 and 3 aerosol products can be stored in a general-purpose storage area. In addition, there are limits imposed on the height of storage. Also, the storage mentioned above can be in a building not protected with an automatic sprinkler system. For quantities larger than 1000 Kg, the following additional requirements are applicable:

    • Using a dedicated storage area separated from the remainder of the building by chain-link fencing or a noncombustible partition, or
    • Using a dedicated storage area separated from the rest of the building by partitions having a minimum fire-resistance rating of 1-hour.

When constructing a dedicated storage area to accommodate larger quantities, it should be noted that the wall partitions must be capable of withstanding the impact of rocketing cans. In addition, the wall should also extend to the underside of the roof or a ceiling. The quantity of storage allowed for Level 2 and Level 3 aerosol products can be considerably increased when the building is provided with an automatic sprinkler system. In addition, the sprinkler protection provided for the aerosol product storage is required to conform to NFPA 30B. The NFPA 30B further offers various options to protect the storage of cartoned or uncartoned Level 2 and 3 aerosol products in either solid-piled or rack storage methods.

PLC Fire Safety Engineering (PLC) has helped industrial customers determine the requirements to protect their aerosol storage hazards. PLC has also explored alternative approaches to meet the intent of the codes and standards. Please contact us should you require help with managing aerosol storage hazards.

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