Hand sanitizers on board: Fire risks

By Mark Zee


This is an extract from the OPSGROUP Covid-19 Supermanual, version 0.9 – May 11, 2020


Hand Sanitizers – fire risk

In a documented case in May 2020, an individual suffered first and second degree burns when they made contact with a metal surface and a static discharge ignited the still wet hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer gels contain large concentrations of alcohol. Once the hand sanitizer is applied, individuals must make sure the gel has suitable time to dry. Alcohol vapors can ignite if exposed to an ignition source, such as light switches or cigarette lighters. Crews should be made aware of this risk, especially in the aircraft operating environment. Original source here.

Dangerous Goods exemption requirements

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are classified as dangerous goods and are not specifically permitted by the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations and ICAO Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous goods by Air (DGR 2.5, ICAO Technical Instructions Part 1;2.2) .

Operators that wish to add alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the items carried in galleys or installed in lavatories will need to request authorization from their civil aviation authority (State of the Operator) in accordance with the provision that is set out in Part 1;2.2.1 a) of the ICAO Technical Instructions.

IATA recommends that the request for authorization addresses the following:

– The classification and UN number of the hand sanitizer. For example, UN 1987, Alcohols, n.o.s. (ethyl alcohol mixture), UN 1170, Ethanol solution. However, the safety data sheet from the manufacturer of the hand sanitizer should be checked for the classification;

– The quantity of hand sanitizer in each container and the number of containers to be carried on the aircraft;
– What steps will be taken to ensure that the hand sanitizer is kept away from sources of heat or ignition;

– Provision of information to crew members on the carriage of the hand sanitizer. For example, that crew members will be advised on the procedures through a bulletin or other appropriate method.

Crews can take hand sanitizers as carry on, each bottle max 0.5L, under the IATA Dangerous Goods regulations, total for toiletries is 2L.


What else is in the manual?

We’ve divided the manual into four areas around phases of flight: Before, During, After … and a Checklists section.

Before we go flying

About Covid, Precautions, Off duty crew and staff
Going to work, Health Check, Illness at work, Dispatchers
Flight Crew – Fit to fly, License, medical and recency, keeping aircraft and crew current
Wellbeing and Mental Health: How to find calm, Be Kind
Planning a flight, Crew pairings and planning
Aircraft cleaning and preparation, Risks: Hand Sanitizers, Dangerous Good regulations
Catering and Food preparation, Operations to an FBO or Executive Terminal, Passengers
Arriving at work, Briefings

During our flight

In-flight considerations
Aircraft Setup, Boarding, Temperature Checks, Baggage, Seating
Wearing of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
Additional Aircraft Equipment
In flight Crew procedures: Pilots, Flight Attendants, In-flight Service
Illness in Flight – Crew actions, Dispatch actions, Cleaning procedure

After – back home (or downroute)

Tech Stops and Turnarounds, Interim Cleaning, Walkaround
Arrival at Destination, Waste Disposal, Cleaning at outstation
Overnights/Layovers, Hotel guidance, Crew PPE kits
Crew Illness away from Home base
AOG/Unplanned overnight
Arrival at Home base,
Aircraft Cleaning, Cockpit cleaning
Crew exposure, Contact tracing


Checklist: Trip planning in Covid-19
Checklist: Aircraft supplies
Passenger Health Screening form example

For more about the Covid-19 Supermanual contents, and to download a copy, use this link.


More on the topic:

More reading:

Mark Zee

Mark Zee

Founder of OPSGROUP, and a former airline pilot, ATCO and flight dispatcher. Based in Christchurch, New Zealand. Email me at mark.zee@ops.group.

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