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Contents of vacuum cleaner left to fester over weekend cause explosive reaction!
An industrial vacuum cleaner that had been used to clean up aluminium powder and was left unemptied for the weekend, provided the perfect incubation chamber... The powder reacted with water that was also inside the machine, creating a cloud of hydrogen gas that exploded and burned an unsuspecting worker who switched on the machine the following Monday. The 27 year-old employee, who suffered burns to the top of his body, was in hospital for two weeks and off work for three months.
A Health & Safety Executive investigation found that had Staffordshire research & development company Renishaw undertaken a proper risk assessment, it would have identified that a reaction could be caused by mixing metal powder with the water inside the vacuum cleaner.
Renishaw was last month prosecuted by the HSE following the incident at its site in Whitebridge Park, Stone, in 2012. The company, of New Mills, Wotton under Edge, Gloucestershire, was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £6,397 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 5 (1) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Wayne Owen said:
“This type of vacuum was not suitable for use with aluminium powder. Had the company paid attention to the instructions for working with this metal powder - or indeed the machine itself - then the incident could have been prevented. Aluminium powder mixed with water can create highly explosive gas and a suitable and sufficient risk assessment would have shown that they should not have been mixed.
"It must have been a very frightening experience for the worker, who suffered painful injuries.”
11th April 2013