Severity
Incident
Leak
Yes
Ignition
Yes
Ignition Source
spark from switching instrument on

A researcher was using numerous compressed gases in his lab. To facilitate reconfiguring his experimental apparatus, he installed "quick-disconnect" fittings on flexible tubing connected to his compressed gas cylinders/regulators. He also fitted all of the equipment that needed gas with complementary "quick-disconnect" fittings.

The day of the incident, he needed to purge his IR spectrometer with nitrogen as the element heated up. He mistakenly attached the "quick-disconnect" fitting from a cylinder of 10% nitrogen and 90% hydrogen to the "quick-disconnect" fitting on his spectrometer. As soon as the gas started flowing and he switched on the element, the instrument exploded, completely destroying a $6,000 piece of equipment. Only minor damage was done to the rest of the room, and luckily there were no injuries.

Incident Date
Jan 01, 1982
Setting
Equipment
  • Piping/Fittings/Valves
  • Flexible Tubing
  • Laboratory Equipment
  • IR spectrometer
  • Piping/Fittings/Valves
  • quick disconnect fittings
Damage and Injuries
Contributing Factors
When Incident Discovered
Lessons Learned

The lessons learned from this incident are:

Verify the gas that you are using.
Avoid using "quick-disconnect" fittings in this type of situation. If they are absolutely needed, there are sets available that ensure that every pair of matching fittings are different from all the others.