Monday, November 3, 2014

CSB Releases Preventing Incidents From Flammable Chemicals In Educational Demos Bulletin

CSB held a press conference on Oct. 30 to discuss the new “Key Lessons for Preventing Incidents From Flammable Chemicals in Educational Demonstrations" Bulletin.

The release details a series of key lessons learned from flash fire incidents in Reno, NV, Denver, CO, and Raymond, IL, where children were burned while observing laboratory demonstrations involving flammable liquid methanol.

The first incident explained in the bulletin is the Sept. 3, 2014, incident at the Terry Lee Wells Discovery Museum in Reno, where 13 people, most of them children, were injured.

Just 12 days later, a similar accident occurred at the SMART Academy in Denver, severely burning a 16-year-old. Just 10 days before the bulletin’s release, three Cubs scouts and one adult were injured during a methanol demonstration in Raymond.

What all of these incidents had in common was that they involved flames with a color additive, with methanol being the flammable liquid. They all had flash backs to the methanol bulk containers and fire engulfed the audience who were not protected by any physical barriers.

The bulletin also included a segment about a 2006 incident that severely burned then-15-year-old student Calais Weber. That incident involved a demonstration of a chemical rainbow that involved combusting salts with methanol. CSB released a video about her story called After the Rainbow.

The key lessons outlined in the safety bulletin as a result of the CSB’s investigation into these incidents are as follows:

  • Due to flash fire hazards and the potential for serious injuries, do not use bulk containers of flammable chemicals in educational demonstrations when small quantities are sufficient.
  • Employers should implement strict safety controls when demonstrations necessitate handling hazardous chemicals — including written procedures, effective training, and the required use of appropriate PPE for all participants.
  • Conduct a comprehensive hazard review before performing any educational demonstration.
  • Provide a safety barrier between the demonstration and the audience.
For more information, please visit CSB’s site.