Most hand sanitisers consist out of 70% alcohol (or some 65%) and therefor it is flammable. We have interviewed some fire, risk and transport industry experts to shed some light on the risk and precautions to take when carrying sanitiser in passenger transport vehicles. Stay tuned this coming week to find out precisely what you can do to minimise risk!
The basics of hand sanitiser
Johan Meyer from Cape Transport & General Adjusters says even though hand sanitisers are flammable, an open flame is necessary to light it.
The vapour from the sanitiser is also dangerous, but the speed at which the sanitiser evaporates makes it relatively safe. In consultation with established bus operators, he makes some safety suggestions.
Anthony Van der Westhuizen from Civil Investigations says hand sanitiser out of all probabilities will not self-combust when exposed to direct sunlight or stored in a vehicle. Hand sanitiser that is bottled in sealed containers and starts to leak for some reason, out of all probability will not self-combust. Hand sanitiser sprayed out of a container in volumes could ignite when making contact with a direct heat factor such as burning matches and lighters. There is no known evidence that electrical short-circuiting in a vehicle will ignite the alcohol contents in hand sanitiser as hand sanitisers will usually combust with naked flames.
Facts about sanitiser
Anthony Van der Westhuizen from Civil Investigations have conducted their tests, and there was no specific evidence specifying cases and all information on their analyses are based on probabilities.
Hand sanitiser should have an alcohol content of 70º alcohol.
- The ignition temperature (Flashpoint) of 300º c is needed to ignite the alcohol
- Matches burning point is between 600 to 800º c
- Cigarette lighters like Bic use Butane fuel and burn up to 1977º c
- Cigarette and smoking pipes heat factors is between 510 to 621º c
- Matches and lighters create sufficient flashpoint to ignite alcohol.
Results fo the tests conducted with hand sanitiser
Civil Investigations conducted tests on five different hand sanitisers purchased from various outlets of which three was in an alcohol-based liquid and one in a gel also alcohol-based (purchased at Woolworths) and one hand sanitiser which is liquid-based with enzymes.
All four alcohol-based hand sanitisers ignited with a lighter. The only hand sanitiser that did not ignite was the liquid Hand sanitiser with enzymes.
The method that used for testing was spraying the Hand sanitiser onto cloth and paper igniting it with a lighter which ignite immediately.
We conducted a second test where we sprayed alcohol-based hand sanitiser onto a direct flame (using a lighter), and the force of the spray extinguished the lighter. A second test that we conducted was where we sprayed hand sanitiser into an enclosed area (box) which we then ignited with a lighter and found that the flame burned at normal temperature and did not combust the vapours in the box.
Civil Investigations concluded there is a concern that hand sanitiser can burn where sprayed on surfaces and directly ignited.
Hand sanitiser could pose a potential fire risk in passenger transport vehicles.
Johan Meyer from Cape Transport & General Adjusters says hand sanitiser could pose a potential fire risk. Following feedback and consultation from the bus industry, reputable bus companies recommend that bus operators only allow the driver or assistant to handle the sanitiser.
It will be responsible and wise to store the hand sanitiser in a sealed and safe place out of reach of any passengers. When a bus returns from the route, the sanitiser products must be removed from the bus.
Extra precautions needed with hand sanitiser onboard
All buses and coaches do have fire extinguishers installed in them. Bus owners need to check that these fire extinguishers are in working order and remind passengers as they get onboard that smoking is always strictly prohibited in passenger transport vehicles.
Scholars transport and hand sanitiser
When schools open, the bus owners are obliged to keep hand sanitisers on board. The driver must sanitise the hands of all pupils getting onto the bus. These rules have been communicated to bus owners by the Department of Education. The department of education also wants bus owners to clean their buses with diluted pine gel, but clarification in this regard remains awaited.
Is your hand sanitiser the real deal?
Anthony Van der Westhuizen from Civil Investigations concern have a concern, and that is the 70º alcohol base and manufacturers such as home base manufacturers that are not manufacturing to a protocol such as manufacturers brewing alcohol and selling it off as Hand sanitisers.
This type of hand sanitisers out of all probability with higher alcohol volumes and incorrect competes vapours could combust.
Our summary of hand sanitisers carried in vehicles.
Taking all the feedback we received from experts in the field of transporting passengers, even though hand sanitiser does pose a fire risk, it is highly unlikely that it could cause a fire if used responsibly and correctly.
Two things that stand out from the conversations with our experts:
- Anybody reading this blog should buy hand sanitiser from reputable Companies.
- In general, it may be necessary for all bus operators also to make use of a conductor or the driver to self-sanitise commuters hands outside the bus. Use the hand sanitiser before entering the bus to eliminate excessive vapours inside the bus. It is the wisest and most basic precaution both operators and commuters can take to keep passengers safe.