Explosion at University of Missouri-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, August 2, 2010

Explosion at University of Missouri

    Four people were injured and a laboratory essentially ruined at the University of Missouri on June 28th.  The fire and explosion were related to a tank of hydrogen gas present in the laboratory.  It is unclear at this time what caused the incident, though it is believed to be an accident.  The estimates of damage include $750,000 to the building and $500,000 to laboratory equipment.

As we all know, hydrogen gas is very flammable and special precautions must be taken to ensure safe handling.  Like all gas cylinders, you need to ensure that the tank is properly secured to a stable surface.
Also, be sure that the hydrogen tank has the proper regulator (CGA 350), and that, when not in use, the gas is turned off at the tank and not the regulator only.  Special care must be taken to ensure that there are no spark sources in the area where the gas is to be used.  In areas where hydrogen is stored, there must never be any oxidizing gases (including oxygen!) stored within 20 feet.  It is not uncommon for labs to use hydrogen in conjunction with oxygen to feed-fuel equipment.  If this is the case in your lab, please contact EH&S and we can arrange for safe usage of this set-up.

Accidents happen, such as in the case at the University of Missouri, but the repercussions, in damages and lost research, can be steep, so please ensure that your gas set-ups are done properly.