Flammable Vs Combustible Liquids

Many researchers in the laboratories deal with chemicals and liquids routinely. Laboratories also store the chemicals as a reserve for future use. 

The liquids used and stored in the laboratory may pose a serious risk to life and property if not handled and managed well. But what do the terms flammable and combustible mean? How do they differ?  

Let’s understand the similarities and differences between Flammable vs Combustible Liquids.

What are they? Flammable & combustible liquids can ignite under the right conditions. Both pose serious risks to human lives, health, and safety. 
What is flash point? Flash point is the minimum temperature at which a liquid forms a vapour above its surface in sufficient concentration that it can be ignited. Liquids with lower flash points ignite easier.
What is boiling point? Boiling point is the temperature at which the vapour pressure of a liquid equals the external pressure surrounding the liquid. 
What is the difference between flash point & boiling point? Every liquid has a boiling point, but only volatile liquids have a flash point.

Boiling point can be observed with formation of bubbles inside the liquid, whilst flash point results in ignition above the liquid.

How do flammable & combustible liquids differ? According to NFPA 30: 

  • A flammable liquid is defined as a liquid whose flash point does not exceed 100°F, when tested by closedcup test methods 
  • A combustible liquid is one whose flash point is 100°F or higher, also when tested by closedcup methods.
What safety regulations and guidance are available?
  • NFPA 30 Chapter 9.5.3
  • OSHA 29 CFR 1910.106
  • Local regulations

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