Q&A — 03 June 2013

Q&A: How to Dispose of Cleaning Materials



H-Marie Miller Associates LLC
Panama City, Fla.

Q. How can I dispose of rags and other materials used to clean the range? 

A. Hannah Niane, H-Marie Associates LLC

It is a common practice for employees to leave dirty rags and other soiled cloths on the countertop or in uncovered bins. This is an unsafe practice; in fact, it is a fire hazard. In order to reduce the risk of a spontaneous combustion during closed hours, soiled rags that have been used to clean guns must be disposed of in accordance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 30 guidelines; use a self-closing metal container.

Why is it important to discard oily rags in a fire-proof container? Gun oils and cleaning fluids pose a fire hazard. Employees working in the gunsmith and gun-rental areas routinely wipe down firearms with gun oils and cleaning solvents that contain combustible and flammable chemical agents. NFPA 30 defines a combustible liquid as a liquid with a flashpoint less than 100 °F. (37.8 °C); a flammable liquid, on the other hand, is defined as a liquid with a flashpoint higher than 100°F. (37.8 °C). Another characteristic of a flammable liquid is that it gives-off vapors that are capable of catching fire. It is these flammable vapors that pose the greatest fire threat in the workplace.

The slightest spark, i.e., static discharge, can ignite flammable vapors. Therefore, cleaning rags must be stored in a manner that reduces the risk of a fire occurring. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to furnish the work area with a self-closing, fire-resistant container in areas where combustible/flammable chemicals are used. The proper disposal of flammable waste is an area of concern in shooting ranges and is frequently cited by OSHA compliance officers. So, remember to check the work area to verify that no oily rags are left in the open.

Hannah Niane, alias OSHA Lady, is an entrepreneur who recently joined the National Shooting Sports Foundation Range Action Specialist Team. Since 2008, Ms. Niane has provided expert guidance and training through her company H-Marie Miller Associates LLC located in Panama City, Florida. She has served on the panel of experts at NSSF Lead Management/OSHA Compliance Workshops. You can visit her website at www.osha-lady.com for additional product information and service.

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