Severity
Incident
Leak
Yes
Ignition
No

A 30-milliliter (mL) vacuum bulb, equipped with a glass stopcock, containing one gram of pentacarbonyl manganese hydride exploded in a refrigerator. This caused the breakage of three other containers, releasing some contents into the refrigerator. The chemicals did not react. The refrigerator contained numerous reactive and flammable chemicals, mostly in glass containers.

The damaged containers were removed and relocated under a hood. The refrigerator was then examined for other breakage and inventoried. All breakage was cleaned up. The safety coordinator was notified and began an investigation.

The direct cause of the occurrence was the failure of a glass vacuum bulb, which either fractured due to some unforeseen chemical reaction forming hydrogen gas, or was unable to resist some pressure buildup. The root cause is also attributable to the materials, either the chemical, or the vacuum bulb. The fact that refrigerators are commonly used throughout to store a variety of chemicals is not unique. However, this occurrence could have been much more severe if incompatible chemicals were involved.

Incident Date
May 13, 1993
Setting
Equipment
  • Laboratory Equipment
  • Glassware
Damage and Injuries
Probable Cause
When Incident Discovered
Lessons Learned

In the future, the laboratory will issue a memorandum about this incident to illustrate the need to wear safety glasses with side shields, store chemicals compatibly, take care when placing chemicals in the refrigerators for storage, and keep the quantities minimal. The laboratory will issue guidance regarding chemical storage hazards, identifying the hazard and requiring all chemicals to be stored according to compatibility, with secondary containment provided, in approved refrigerators.

The main point to keep in mind is to minimize the quantities of reactive materials to be stored in refrigerators. Chemicals placed in refrigerators should be stored with regard to their chemical compatibility, and secondary containment should be provided to prevent contact with incompatible chemicals.

Additional discussion about working with reactive metal-hydride materials in the laboratory can be found in the Lessons Learned Corner on this website and in the Hydrogen Safety Best Practices Manual.

Key:

  • = No Ignition
  • = Explosion
  • = Fire
Hydrogen Incident Summaries by Equipment and Primary Cause/Issue
Equipment / Cause Equipment Design or Selection Component Failure Operational Error Installation or Maintenance Inadequate Gas or Flame Detection Emergency Shutdown Response Other or Unknown
Hydrogen Gas Metal Cylinder or Regulator   3/31/2012
4/30/1995
2/6/2013
4/26/2010 12/31/1969     3/17/1999
11/1/2001
12/23/2003
Piping/Valves 4/4/2002
2/2/2008
5/11/1999
4/20/1987
11/4/1997
12/31/1969
8/19/1986
7/27/1991
12/19/2004
2/6/2008
10/3/2008
4/5/2006
5/1/2007
9/19/2007
10/31/1980
2/7/2009 1/24/1999
2/24/2006
6/8/1998
12/31/1969
2/7/2009

9/1/1992
10/31/1980

10/3/2008  
Tubing/Fittings/Hose   9/23/1999
8/2/2004
8/6/2008
9/19/2007
1/1/1982 9/30/2004
10/7/2005
  10/7/2005  
Compressor   10/5/2009
6/10/2007
8/21/2008
1/15/2019
    10/5/2009 8/21/2008  
Liquid Hydrogen Tank or Delivery Truck 4/27/1989 12/19/2004
1/19/2009
8/6/2004 12/31/1969   1/1/1974 12/17/2004
Pressure Relief Device 7/25/2013
5/4/2012
1/15/2002
1/08/2007
12/31/1969        
Instrument 1/15/2019 3/17/1999
12/31/1969
2/6/2013
    11/13/73    
Hydrogen Generation Equipment 7/27/1999     10/23/2001      
Vehicle or Lift Truck   7/21/2011         2/8/2011
12/9/2010
Fuel Dispenser   8/2/2004
5/1/2007
6/11/2007
9/19/2007
  2/24/2006
1/22/2009
     
Fuel Cell Stack            

5/3/2004
12/9/2010
2/8/2011

Hydrogen Cooled Generator       12/31/1969
2/7/2009
     
Other (floor drain, lab
anaerobic chamber,
heated glassware,
test chamber,
gaseous hydrogen
composite cylinder,
delivery truck)
  11/14/1994
7/21/2011
7/27/1999
6/28/2010
8/21/2008
12/31/1969
3/22/2018
    6/10/2019
  • = No Ignition
  • = Explosion
  • = Fire