Hidden Hazards: Are these dangers lurking in your inbound material?

We all know to look for flammable liquids, closed cylinders, batteries and other fuels and ignition sources when receiving material. But just like going for a walk in the woods and watching out for poison ivy, you might miss that snake in the grass. Sometimes danger lurks when and where you least expect it. That said, let’s look at a few overlooked fire hazards that may present themselves on site.

Glass and mirrors

Unusual items that come to our facilities should be given special attention.  One scrapyard I visit received a load of overhead projectors from the school system to recycle. When placed in a pile, sunlight traveled through the convex glass and started a pile fire that required fire department response. Mirrors also reflect light in a way that can create enough heat to ignite flammable materials.  The closer your facility is to the equator, the greater this risk becomes.

Plastic water bottles

Things can go from good to ugly quickly when the right combination is activated. Plastic water bottles on a combustible surface can create a surprising risk. A filled water bottle can create a magnifying effect similar to that mentioned above and contribute to a fire as well. Actual cases of this risk have been documented by fire departments across the country, usually from water bottles left on the seat of a car. Again, warmer climates closer to the equator with low humidity and dry heat pose more of a threat of a risk as well.


Some chemicals seem innocuous, but they’re flammable when they come in contact with water. An open container can expose the contents to water and potentially spark a fire. For instance, Calcium Carbide is used in industry and is water reactive. It puts off a flammable gas when wet. What’s most dangerous perhaps is the fact that Calcium Carbide is shipped in metal cans and the containers can be viewed as recyclable items by customers who aren’t trained (or don’t care). Inspectors should be able to identify chemical storage containers and should reject or isolate those that contain a dangerous or unknown product.

Is your inspector a “snake hunter”? The more your employees understand latent risks, the more likely they are to keep their workplace fire safe. IC Fire Prevention is uniquely qualified to assess facilities for deficiencies and engage employees in the fire prevention process. Give me a call at (260) 241-2256 to learn more.

In safety, Kenn

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