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Lab Safety: Waste generators must leave head space to prevent explosions (Aug 31, 2007)

Exploded container at waste facility


Memo: August 31, 2007
To: Chemical users
From: Katrina Doolittle, Director, Environmental Health & Safety

Last week a four liter glass bottle of waste acetone exploded at the NMSU- Las Cruces Hazardous Waste Storage Facility at the base of A-Mountain. Very fortunately no one was injured, but an employee was present and had picked up the bottle only five minutes before it spontaneously exploded emitting a shower of acetone and glass shards.

An investigation of this incident lead to the conclusion that the waste bottle had been completely filled. Literally not one more drop of acetone could have been added to the container.

When hazardous waste is picked up on campus it will be exposed to temperature fluctuations that can cause chemicals to expand, especially volatile solvents. NMSU hazardous waste procedures state that EH&S should be called to pick up waste when containers are 75% full. This allows for ample free air space inside the container to help prevent a repeat incident of this type.

MAIN POINT: Always leave at least 10% air head space on waste containers.

Thank you.

Clean-up operation

Original 8/31/2007 Email in pdf format

General references:
1) Employee Safety Handbook: Hazardous waste management
2) Hazardous Waste Program (web): Hazardous Waste Manual
3) NMSU Lab Safety Guide: Procedures for used chemical disposal
4) Waste Inspection Checklist

Further questions can be answered by NMSU Environmental Health and Safety, 646-3327.

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