Severity
Incident
Leak
Yes
Ignition
Uncertain

A violent reaction occurred while hydrolyzing metal in water. The reactive metal treatment began with a review of the chemical inventory and setup of reaction vessels. The sodium metal was cut in shavings and added one at a time to the reaction vessel. After the second addition, an argon purge was added to disperse hydrogen gas faster. After approximately 10 pieces had been treated, the glass beaker shattered, releasing the contents of the reaction vessel (1 liter) inside the hood and causing the chemist's hand to receive superficial cuts. The process was being performed under a hood with all safety equipment in place. The employee was in personal protective equipment (PPE), but did receive two cuts on his hand through the glove. The treatment of reactive metals was being performed under an emergency treatment permit.

The direct/root cause of this occurrence has been determined to be human error in using a glass beaker to perform the treatment. The decision was made to use a glass beaker in order to viably watch the reactive material being treated. No one had any knowledge that the configuration of using stirrers and the use of a large glass beaker would restrict the release of hydrogen gas as quickly as possible.

Incident Date
May 20, 1996
Setting
Equipment
  • Laboratory Equipment
  • Glassware
Damage and Injuries
Probable Cause
Contributing Factors
When Incident Discovered
Lessons Learned

On-site personnel performing treatment of reactive metals/chemicals must continue to exercise caution. Although there is an inherent risk in treating reactive metals/chemicals, personnel must adhere to conduct of operations principles to include conducting a formal pre-evolutionary briefing. During the briefing, a review of the job safety analysis and/or other applicable policies/procedures should be discussed to ensure strict compliance with all safety precautions associated with personnel protection. Prior to commencement of treatment processes, laboratory hoods must be designed with appropriate blast shielding or other pre-determined engineering safety features.

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