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Fire Safety and Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer

"As a follow-up to the 14 MAY 2020 email chain below, the CDC website has fire safety information specific to alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS). While the CDC developed the guidance for the healthcare industry, you may find the information helpful if you are using and storing ABHS in your workplace. Please see the CDC link below."



May 14th Email:

"All job sites: use this as one of your safety topics today if possible, and tomorrow at the latest.

Note-this incident occurred at another company.

Contact Safety for additional information or assistance.


What Happened

A worker used an 80% alcohol‐based hand sanitizer as recommended by current hygiene recommendations in the COVID‐19 plan. Just after the application to his hands, but before the liquid disinfectant had evaporated and completely dried, the worker touched a metal surface. On this metal surface, an accumulation of static electricity created an ignition source, and the disinfectant (ethyl‐alcohol based) flashed, resulting in an almost invisible flame (blue) in both hands. The contractor managed to extinguish the flames but suffered from first and second‐degree burns to both hands.

Potential Cause(s)

1. Hand gels contain high concentrations of alcohol. Once the hand sanitizer was applied, the worker did not ensure that the gel had completely evaporated before proceeding with work activity.

2. Alcohol vapors can flame or flash if exposed to an ignition source, switches, or any surface containing static electricity.

Corrective/Preventive Actions

1. When using alcohol‐based hand sanitizers, be sure to allow for the sanitizer to dry/evaporate before resuming work activity.

2. Avoid touching any surface until the gel has completely dried. Stay away from any potential ignition source while sanitizer is still wet.

3. If you are not sure about the use of alcohol‐based disinfectants, please use warm water and soap to wash your hands if available rather than using alcohol‐based hand sanitizer."

Kevin Sell


United Group Services

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