Severity
Incident
Leak
Yes
Ignition
Yes

A guest student was weighing out less than 200 mg of sodium hydride. The material reacted with moisture in the air, producing hydrogen. The heat of the reaction ignited the hydrogen on the end of the spatula being used to transfer the material and at the mouth of the bag holding the stock material (approximately 48 to 50 g). The student attempted to smother the flames with a cotton lab coat hanging nearby. He quickly determined that the lab coat was insufficient to smother the flames and entered the adjoining lab to get a fire extinguisher and warn other lab workers in the area. The other lab workers exited the lab, warned others in the area, pulled the fire alarm and called the laboratory shift supervisor. The student extinguished the fire with the fire extinguisher, then left the building with the other occupants.

Members of the onsite fire department responded and entered the building at 16:04. They noted the absence of smoke in the hallways, dissipating smoke in the lab and no apparent flames. The Hazardous Materials Response Team was assembled to develop a plan for mitigation. Building occupants were escorted back into the building to power down critical experiments and at 18:00 all occupants were given the opportunity to re-enter the building to collect personal items and leave for the day. At 19:20, the Hazardous Materials Response Team entered the laboratory to execute the mitigation plan, removing the materials from the area and wiping down the area with mineral oil. There were no injuries resulting from this event.

Incident Date
Aug 05, 2005
Setting
Equipment
  • Process Equipment
  • Sodium Hydride Container
Damage and Injuries
Contributing Factors
When Incident Discovered
Lessons Learned

Some hydride materials (e.g., sodium alanates) may be rapidly exothermic, even pyrophoric, if exposed to water or humid air or slowly exothermic, even pyrophoric, if exposed to oxygen. Reactive materials, including fine metal powders, should be handled (as in this incident) in an inert atmosphere such as a glove box. The protocol for handling these materials should be incorporated into a standard operating procedure and appropriate safety training conducted for laboratory personnel, including guest staff.

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