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Metal drum explodes during welding

A worker at a kayak manufacturing company was welding on a sealed and empty metal drum that had previously contained acetone. The welding instrument burned through the surface of the thin metal, igniting the flammable acetone vapour inside the drum. The drum exploded and struck the worker, throwing him across the room onto a concrete floor. The worker sustained fatal injuries.


Findings as to causes

  • Acetone vapour present in the empty acetone drum exploded when a welding burn-through created an opening into the drum and exposed the flammable vapour to an ignition source.
Findings as to underlying factors
  • Supervision was inadequate. The company owner did not stop the unsafe work activity and did not ensure that workers knew the hazards.
  • The employer provided no instruction in this activity and the worker had no formal training in welding. None of the workers on site knew that residual acetone remains present in empty acetone drums even if rinsed out.

Hazard Alert

Slide show

Publication Date: Jan 2009 File type: PDF (418 KB) Asset type: Incident Investigation Report Summary NI number: 2009147050259