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Storage of explosive or flammable materials in shipping containers

What is the potential risk?

Flammable or explosive materials stored in shipping containers may release vapours that can accumulate in the container, which poses a risk of fire and explosion. If the container is exposed to a heat source, these vapours may ignite and cause a fire or explosion that may injure workers.

Shipping containers are increasingly being used as storage sheds on land. In some cases, they are used for storing flammable or combustible materials. If the containers are unmodified, they provide an unventilated and potentially pressurized environment that may increase the risk of an explosion.

There have been incidents of shipping containers exploding in B.C., resulting in worker injuries.

Firefighters, first responders, and workers in close proximity to shipping containers are at risk of injury should a fire or explosion occur.

What industries may be at risk?

  • Transportation and warehousing
  • Fire brigade
  • General industry with storage requirements

How can I reduce the risk in my workplace?

As an employer, you need to know if there is the potential for the risk identified in this advisory to be present in your workplace. It’s your responsibility to regularly inspect your workplace, and to ensure that your safety procedures and practices control the risk.

The following information highlights some of the sections of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation and Guidelines that are most relevant to this risk.

Section 5.26 of the OHS Regulation requires that a designated storage area for a hazardous substance must be designed for safe containment of the substance and provided adequate ventilation and lighting.

The BC Fire Code also places additional duties on the employer regarding the control of risks relating to the storage and handling of flammable substances.

Where can I find resources?

You can access the following resources on

Publication Date: Jan 2015 Asset type: Risk Advisory Reference: RA 2015-05