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BSEE: Unsafe chemical use and disposal

The United States Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has published Safety Alert #450 relating to several incidents involving the improper use or disposal of chemicals.

Incident 1: During the disposal of expired paint products, a worker mixed epoxy resin and solidifier in a container. In a second container, Carboline epoxy paint A & B components were mixed. Finally, the two containers were mixed into a five gallon bucket and placed in a paint locker. Five minutes later, the worker noticed smoke coming from the locker. The worker placed the bucket into a larger container filled with water and left. Twenty minutes later, the worker’s supervisor noticed white smoke coming from the container, and called the control room. A fire alarm muster was called. The worker added more water to the container enroute to his muster station but the smoking did not stop until later when the mixture was covered with fire retardant powder.

Incident 2: An operator noticed a cotton cloth rag smouldering inside a wheelbarrow. The wheelbarrow also contained filtration media and used paint that was curing before disposal. Water was used to put out the fire. The investigation determined that the cloth likely contained flammable Carboline thinner, which ignited as the cloth dried in direct sunlight. 

Incident 3: An employee attempted to clear a clogged drain in the living quarters with a proprietary drain cleaner (“Liquid Fire”, active ingredient: sulphuric acid). The employee then added additional drain cleaner on the mornings of the next two days without success. On the third day, the employee added chlorine bleach to attempt to unclog the drain. The bleach and drain cleaner reacted causing a small greenish yellow gas cloud to form. The employee inhaled a small amount of the gas and experienced a sudden shortness of breath. The employee was medevaced to a hospital for chest x-rays, supplemental oxygen, and breathing treatment and was later released.

The BSEE recommendations included:

  • Remember that when epoxy base is mixed with solidifier, the reaction may be exothermic (i.e., produce heat);
  • Do not leave cloths, rags, mops, or clothing that have been saturated with flammable liquids in hot areas or direct sunlight. Laundering these items without first removing the flammable liquids can cause fires;
  • Do not mix cleaning products. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and do not use them for purposes other than their designated use;
  • Read and understand the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and have procedures for handling chemicals that account for their specific hazards. Keep SDS on file for all chemicals kept in inventory or used routinely at your facility. SDS include information about hazardous chemical properties, personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements, and procedures for first aid, handling, cleanup, firefighting, storage, and disposal;
  • Verify that firefighting and spill response equipment is nearby and ready for use before starting a job. Some firefighting formulations may not be effective against certain chemicals, and water may worsen some types of fires or chemical reactions;
  • Wear appropriate PPE when handling chemicals. Face shields, special chemical handling gloves, and aprons are common PPE for chemical handling. Latex gloves may be sufficient for some chemicals; others may require PVC or nitrile gloves. Refer to the SDS for PPE information.

Members may wish to refer to

Safety Event

Published: 13 December 2022
Download: IMCA SF 28/22

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