Fire and explosion risks in printing

Printing often involves flammable materials which can create significant fire and explosion risks. This page identifies some printing specific risks, outlines what you need to do and where you can find out more information.

Particular risks in printing include:

  • paper fires in Infrared Dryers and UV curing units
  • explosions in dryers due to high blanket wash solvent vapour levels
  • fire and explosion in flexographic and gravure printing due to flammable inks

What you need to do

Assess the risks

In addition to your general risk assessments you must assess the fire and explosion risks from any dangerous substances used/produced in your workplace in accordance with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR). The assessment needs to consider the;

  • hazardous properties of each substance
  • circumstances of the work
  • effect of existing safety measures
  • likelihood that an explosive atmosphere will occur and be ignited
  • scale of the effects of any fire or explosion

Provide control measures to eliminate or reduce risk such as:

  • substitute solvent based products for water based ones where possible
  • avoid low flashpoint solvents such as MEK - substitute with high flashpoint solvents
  • reduce solvent vapour by automated delivery systems/ good housekeeping
  • provide LEV at printing units and adequate ventilation in workroom
  • control room temperatures
  • monitor solvent vapour levels to ensure they are <25% Lower explosion Limit (LEL)
  • carry out a hazardous area classification and ensure fixed equipment within zoned areas is suitably protected and maintained
  • eliminate other sources of ignition such as smoking materials and portable electrical equipment
  • avoid static generation eg limit liquid flow speeds, provide earth bonding, anti static additives & footwear

Minimise risk of fire spread of fire by;

  • segregating printing, storage and other areas
  • ensuring mixing of solvent based inks is carried out in dedicated fire resisting room
  • provide Fire detection and extinguishing systems eg Co2 – manual and automatic
  • provide dampers to isolate solvent recovery units in event of fire

Design Dryers to BS EN 1539:2009.

Earlier dryers should meet BS EN 1539:2000 or if older have:

  • safety features; shut off valves, ignition systems, flame failure devices, purging
  • explosion relief
  • LEV Monitoring- ensure air flow maintained to keep solvent <25%
  • annual check of solvent vapour levels within dryer

Dryers should be modified to meet the current standard where/when this is reasonably practicable

Find out more

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Updated: 2021-11-09