Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) - Flammable Chemicals


Two major hazards in craft distilling or making flavored alcoholic beverages are fire and explosion. Fire incident can happen when vapours from flammable organic compounds, such as ethanol (alcohol), are released. Such types of vapours can appear or arise from leaks in tanks, casks, and equipment, such as transfer pumps, pipes, and flexible hoses. A vapour explosion can happen if enough vapours are released in (a confined space) an enclosed space with ignition sources, such as gas boilers or sparks from electrical equipment.

Moving flammable liquids from one container to another can cause static electricity, increasing the chance of ignition or explosion caused by a spark. Pouring and diluting alcohol to use as a cleaning agent is also a fire and explosion hazard. Diluted ethanol is considered flammable in concentrations greater than 30 per cent alcohol by volume.

Risk Control

Reduce/minimize the risk of injury by following these guidelines:

  1. Never leave a still unattended.
  2. Keep the distilling area well ventilated so vapours won’t build up if there’s an equipment leak.
  3. Charge the still boiler with wash at alcohol concentrations below 40 per cent. Charging the boiler with wash greater than 40 per cent creates an explosion risk.
  4. Keep the distilled alcohol receiver level as low as possible. This reduces the risk of a spill if the container tips.
  5. Use a receiver with a small filling opening. This reduces the vapour escaping into the room and saves alcohol. If a fire any fire incident/accident occurs at the receiver, it will burn at the small opening and can be easily controlled.
  6. Place the receiver in a large, non-flammable, ethanol-resistant container. This will help control accidental overflows. The container should be enough stable and capable of holding at least an hour’s worth of output if the receiver spills or leaks.
  7. Dilute alcohol before storing it to raise its flashpoint. The flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which vapours of the material will ignite. Higher alcohol concentrations will lower the flashpoint and make the alcohol more likely to catch fire.
  8. Ensure that electrical equipment (for example, motors, trace
  9. heating, and electrical panels) in the distilling, pouring, and blending areas are installed according to B.C. Electrical Code requirements. 
  10. This will help prevent and contain sparks from the equipment.
  11. Use grounding and bonding when pouring alcohol from the storage container to the still container and when decanting large amounts of finished product or by-product. You can usually do this with metal containers by connecting them to a ground wire.
  12. Keep heaters and natural gas appliances with pilot lights at least
  13. 3 m (10 ft.) away from distilling, pouring, and blending areas.
  14. Ensure that fire sprinkler systems meet the fire jurisdiction’s requirements for extinguishing an alcohol distillery fire.
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