A worker was injured while cutting the top off of the drum using an angle grinder ignited flammable vapors within the drum. The explosion within the drum causing the bottom to separate and the remainder was driven upwards that struck the worker.
This was a high potential or high risk incident which could have resulted fatality. Risk assessments should be carried out and safe methods of carrying out the task must be discussed and implemented. Supervisors must be trained and need more training if necessary in order to identify or distinguish high potential risks.
Proper preparation of drum or container prior to cutting in order to avoid explosion:
- Chemical containers/drums or any other type of containers that will be re-used for another purpose MUST be thoroughly rinsed to remove all residual products. Water soluble products can be rinsed by filling and emptying the drum with water three times. Products that are not soluble in water, such as petroleum, will require solvent or detergent in order to remove the product.
- If hot work such as grinding, cutting, welding is to be performed on a container or drum that contains a flammable material, the atmosphere within the drum must be tested in accordance with local regulatory requirements. A combustible gas meter shall be used as a minimum requirement to ensure that a flammable atmosphere is not present or does not exist. In case a flammable atmosphere is present, the drum shall be filled with water and then let it drained to remove the flammable vapors and the atmosphere must be re-tested.
- Never cut into a sealed drum or container. Ensure drum caps are removed.