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Safety considerations for use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in aircraft

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer in aircraft

Target audience

  • Operators covered under Annex 6 – Operation of Aircraft, part 1 – International Commercial Air Transport - Aeroplanes
  • Civil Aviation authorities, Governments and airports


According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), hand hygiene is a critical component for the safety of the public; however, alcohol-based hand sanitizers (ABHS) contain alcohol, which readily evaporates at room temperature into an ignitable vapour, and is considered a flammable liquid. Although the incidence of fires related to ABHS is very low, it is vital that ABHS is stored safely and that bulk dispensers are installed and maintained correctly.  It is important to make sure ABHS dispensers are accessible and in locations that do not increase the chances of igniting or spreading a fire.

While it's true that most hand sanitizers have a flashpoint around room temperature, that doesn't mean the liquid will catch fire if it reaches that temperature. Flashpoint is a technical term used to characterize the propensity of a liquid to burn. It defines the temperature at which a liquid gives off enough vapour to become ignitable in the air. At that temperature, however, an ignition source, like a flame or electric spark, is required for ignition to occur.  Spontaneous ignition involves a substance self-heating to a point where it ignites, without the need for any outside ignition source like a flame. Hand sanitizer is not subject to self-heating and would require temperatures to reach over 700 degrees Fahrenheit to spontaneously ignite, according to Guy Colonna, director of Technical Services at NFPA (National Fire Protection Association). 

The ABHS is for use during the boarding / disembarking and is to be stored for TTOL and during the flight. Note: the installation of the ABHS should not conflict with other certification requirements (no obstruction into the emergency evacuation access path, etc.).

The elements associated with the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in aircraft are listed below. Please click for detailed information.

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