Sterno Safety Guidelines

Sterno Safe Handling

To help maintain a fire safe environment at Boston University, this document describes the use and handling of chafing fuels, (Sterno).  Sterno is a small open flame burner often used to heat foods placed under chafing dishes, to keep foods warm during events. Sterno consist of a semi-solid flammable gel inside a small metal case.


  • Set up chaffing stations using Sterno in a safe manner.
  • Properly open and set up Sterno canister per manufactures instructions.
  • Place the canister in the desired location prior to lighting.
  • Use a blunt object to pry off the lid (e.g., spoon).

Safe Handling:

  • Never move or relocate Chaffing station with lit Sterno in place.
  • Staff must be present in the space when Sterno is lit
  • ABC type fire extinguisher must be in the immediate area of use.
  • Use a long handled match or butane lighter to light the canisters.
  • Use a snuffer paddle, regulator, or saucer to extinguish the flame.
  • Always avoid contact with hands and eyes.
  • Use a tool or burn guard sleeve to prevent burns when replacing canisters from under hot food containers room at all time when Sterno is in use.
  • Allow used canisters to cool before removing or replacing.


  • Canisters with remaining contents must be properly disposed of at one of the Sterno disposals on campus. Reach out to EHS for disposal locations.
  • Canisters that are completely empty with no flammable residue may be disposed of in regular trash or recycled.


  • Fire follow the R.A.C.E. fire plan.
  • Call 911 and then BUPD (617) 353-2121 to report a fire.
  • Call BUPD (617) 353-2121 with any other emergency.



Please consult with Environmental Health & Safety with any questions or concerns.  Charles River: 617-353-4094 Med Campus: 617-358-7840