WorkSafe Enforceable Undertaking - Dangers of Welding
DEPI has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with WorkSafe in relation to a welding accident.
Cutting and welding fuel drums can be dangerous
DEPI has agreed to post this alert on its website and in a number of regional newspapers after an explosion at its Alexandra depot in April 2009. As an alternative to prosecution by WorkSafe, the intent is to provide information to the wider community to prevent similar incidents in the future.
A DEPI worker suffered serious injuries when, at the direction of his supervisor, he began welding a steel tank which had previously contained fuel used in burning-off activities. The tank appeared to be empty, but is likely to have contained residual fuel or vapors and exploded, ripping the tank apart.
Dangers of welding or cutting fuel drums
- These jobs should only be done by people with adequate knowledge and skills to perform the job safely.
- Drums containing flammable or combustible substances, including residual vapours, may explode when exposed to heat. Drums that have been empty for a long time can contain enough residue of the original substance to explode and/or emit hazardous gas when exposed to heat. Drums that contained substances like pesticides may also release hazardous gases when exposed to heat.
- Rinsing drums with water is not a fail-safe method for purging vapours from containers.
- Dispose of drums appropriately. If they are to be recycled, use a specialist company that does this work.
- Do not use drums as a welding or work platform.
- Correctly label all drums on site and store empty drums (with bungs removed) in a well-ventilated place, away from other work areas. Have material safety data sheets (MSDS) available for all products.
For more information
- Australian Standard ‘AS 1674.1-1997 – Safety in Welding and Allied Processes - Fire Precautions’ outlines the procedures for hot work on equipment that has held flammable or explosive substances can be bought online at the SAI Global website
- Workcover NSW publishes the ‘Drums and Empty Containers Explosion Hazard Fact Sheet’ which can be found at the Workcover New South Wales website
- Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s website carries the ‘Cutting Fuel Drums and Empty Containers Explosion Hazard Fact Sheet’.
- Full details of the Undertaking can be viewed on the WorkSafe Victoria website