A worker suffered first and second-degree burns to his hands after using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and then touching a metal surface before the liquid evaporated.
Due to static electricity, the vapour from the hand sanitiser ignited with an almost invisible flame on both hands.
A best practice to protect employees and visitors from this hazard includes waiting to let the sanitiser fully absorb into the skin or evaporate prior to returning to work. Isopropyl alcohol is highly flammable and can easily ignite. Vapours may form explosive mixtures with air, travelling to a source of ignition and flash back. It is not really the liquid burning – it is the vapours that catch fire.
Other potential causes of ignition in the workplace, include:
• Sparks from electrical tools and equipment
• Sparks, arcs and hot metal surfaces from welding and cutting
• Smoking tobacco products
• Open flames from portable torches and heating units as well as boilers, pilot lights, ovens and driers
• Sparks from grinding and crushing operations
• Sparks caused by static electricity
When using hand sanitiser, keep it away from ignition sources and ensure all the liquid has evaporated before touching surfaces or resuming work.