As a petty officer third class, you may be assigned
the task of supervising a cleanup detail. No matter what
the jobfrom paint removal to swabbing the
decksprecautions must be taken to guard against the
careless use of cleaning solvents. Take for example the
Sailor who did not read the labels on the cleaning
materials he was using to clean a commode. While
using a chlorine-based cleaner to clean the commode,
he decided to clean the drains at the same time.
Therefore, he added a granulated drain cleaner to the
commode containing the chlorine-based cleaner and
then left the head. A few minutes later, he heard a loud
explosion. The chemical reaction of the drain cleaner
and the chlorine-based cleaner caused an explosion in
the commode. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the head
was a mess.
Solvents used in paints, adhesives, rubber and
plastic materials, and in degreasing solutions can be
hazardous to your health. Most solvents are toxic and,
with a few exceptions, are flammable. Appropriate
measures must be taken to reduce their toxic and
flammable effects. In addition, solvents that come in
contact with your skin can cause serious skin
problems. When using solvents, always observe the
MAKE sure the space in which you are working
has adequate ventilation.
WEAR protective clothing, goggles, respirators,
gloves, and other appropriate equipment.
MAKE sure accessible fire-fighting equipment
TAKE every precaution to prevent excessive
vapors from contaminating the air.
CHECK the labels on all containers of liquids.
WIPE up spilled solvents immediately.
AVOID contact with your eyes, skin, or clothing.
You should NEVER swallow solvents and should
always avoid breathing the vapors.
KEEP solvent containers tightly closed when
you are not using them.
CHECK containers for leakage; if a container is
defective, transfer the solvent to a new container.
MAKE sure containers are empty before you
discard them. You must observe the approved practices
for disposal of solvents, cleaners, and their containers.
LABEL all containers used to store solvents.
READ and comply with all instructions and
precautions on the label.
For information on cleaning solvents, refer to
Naval Ships Technical Manual (NSTM), chapter 631.
When working with solvents, you must stress
safety precautions to your people. Solvents should
NEVER be used in an unventilated space under any
circumstances. Special clothing requirements also
must be observed when using some solvents. As a petty
officer, you MUST make sure all safety precautions are
observed at all times. Laxity on anyones part could
cause a mishap, resulting in injuries or even deaths. By
observing safety precautions, you and your people will
reduce mishaps and save lives.
Damage to containers, including dents, pitting,
rust, creases, cracks, and damage to closures and
gaskets, may lead to leakage and dangerous spills.
Containers in flammable liquid stowage facilities will
be inspected weekly. Containers of other hazardous
materials will be inspected monthly and inventoried
quarterly. OPNAVINST 5100.19 (Series) describes
proper stowage, handling, container inspection, and
disposal of hazardous general-use combustibles.
Types of Solvents
As mentioned throughout this topic, the Navy uses
many types of solvents for a multitude of cleaning
assignments. Many of these solvents are highly toxic
and some are highly flammable. You must take special
care when using many of these solvents; make sure you
store them in cool, dry areas. NSTM, chapter 631,
contains a list of approved solvents and their flash
When personnel are working with hazardous
material, supervisors are NOT responsible for
ensuring that approved personal protective
clothing and equipment are maintained.