HSE Warning

The Health and Safety executive issues a warning to garage owners following two fatal accidents

Published:  14 December, 2010

THE HEALTH and safety executive has issued a bulletin to garage owners warning about the risks of cutting up old containers oil drums.

This message follows a brace of fatal accidents in East Scotland, where two people were killed following explosions from disposing of the unwanted receptacles.

In the bulletin, the HSE notes that employees should take precautions when contemplating 'hot work', by which they mean any process that generates a source of ignition, such as naked flames, heat or sparks arising from working methods such as welding, flame cutting, grinding and using disc cutters. The use of these materials is widespread across industries such as the Motor Vehicle Repair industry, and although some containers may appear to be empty, sufficient liquid residue can exist in seams, creases or folds in the container to give rise to explosive vapours.   Even where the contents of a container may not have been classified as flammable under normal conditions, hot work can generate such extreme temperatures that the contents may ignite.

Edward Marshall, an inspector at the HSE commented: "This alert is not issuing new guidance but is to ensure all relevant workers are aware and familiar with the comprehensive advice that already exists. "In many cases hot work may not actually be necessary, and those ultimately responsible for the work should consider safer alternatives, such as the disposal of drums rather than the repair, and the use of cold-cutting techniques or cold repair methods."

"If there is no alternative employers should aim to avoid the risks, by using specialist companies, or reduce them using methods such as gas-freeing, cleaning or 'inerting' before starting hot work.   "It is essential that all employees have had the right training for the job and know what precautions to take to protect themselves and others."

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