Tag Archives: how work on tanks

Welding of drums or other vessels – the potential for explosion

Lots of businesses which we visit have an oil drum or two lying around the workplace.  It may seems like a good idea to make use of one of these unwanted items and we’ve seen them made into bins and even barbecues.

However, depending on what used to be inside them cutting them open or welding something onto them can result in a powerful explosion.  If you want some more information of what we mean by this take a look at the video from WorkSafeBC; Drum Explodes During Welding, Killing Worker

The problem in this instance was that the original substance, acetone, a solvent used in the manufacture of fiberglass items and many other productions, remained in the vessel. Even a trace amount after the drum was washed through could still be present in sufficient quantity to create an explosive atmosphere. in the case of the video above this was less than a tea spoonful of the original acetone.

Looking at the safety aspects here you can see how likely it is that vapours will remain, even after washing out a drum.  Add into that the heat generated by cutting, grinding or welding the drum allowing the remaining substance to ‘gas off’ and you have a potential bomb on your hands.

The best route to reducing risk is to avoid this situation altogether but sometimes people do need to work in situations where welding will need to take place.  If you can’t avoid it then make yourself familiar with the best practices to reduce risk.

For more information please have a read through the free HSE guidance on the subject here;  Hot work on small tanks and drums INDG314(rev1)

Most importantly, consider if you really need to do this.  Replacing rather than repairing may be your better option.  If you do need to make repairs don’t forget that cold cutting or cold repair techniques may also be an option and will avoid the key risk of hot works and potential explosions.

As always, if you need advice then please call us quoting your Safety~net membership number or company name and we’ll be pleased to offer some more specific advice.

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