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Just a teaspoon of petrol can be enough

HSE drum accident
Make sure you're not taking risks with yourself or your employees.
Depollution specialists, Autodrain recently brought our attention to an HSE press release which highlights the potential hazards when dealing with waste oil and fuels.


A Pitmachie garage was fined after one of its workers was fatally injured when a metal oil drum he was working on exploded. The employee was cutting a metal drum that had previously stored used engine oil and he was using a plasma cutter to remove the lid from the drum. As the blade started to cut through the metal, it generated a shower of sparks which ignited the flammable vapours inside the drum. The drum exploded, causing the lid to strike him on the head, knocking him unconscious. He was airlifted to hospital with multiple head injuries which were unsurvivable and he died the following morning.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the cutting operation had not been properly risk assessed. The drum had not been completely emptied of waste engine oil, and this would have been contaminated with petrol, causing the drum to be filled with petrol vapours. The investigation also found that the system of work employed for cutting the drum was such that a lack of information, instruction and training resulted in the worker using an unsafe method to carry out the task.

Although it was known by workers at the garage that used engine oil could be contaminated with fuel, they were not fully aware of the dangers of using a heat source such as the plasma cutter to remove the drum lid.

At Banff Sheriff Court in September, Pitmachie Garage Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974 and was fined £15,000. After the hearing, HSE Inspector Joanne Nicholls said: “Drums that have contained flammable material and seem to be empty often still have residues in them. Just a teaspoon of petrol can be enough to cause an explosion. “This incident was entirely foreseeable, and could and should have been avoided”.

AutoDrain made us aware of this to hopefully prevent any further employees having to suffer. They have over twenty year’s experience in dealing with waste oil, petrol and contaminated fuel and tell us they are always ready to offer advice. You can visit Autodrain’s website or call them on 0113 2059332.


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