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Empty Fuel Container

Empty Fuel Container

Drums of various capacities are often recycled and reused as storage containers. This practice has been common in construction sites where empty drums are cut to create storage containers or feed troughs. Typically, drums are cut using an angle grinder, oxyacetylene or welding equipment. There is a chance for serious and fatal accidents during the cutting of steel fuel containers. Any combustible material in a tank, drum or similar container can give off vapor or fumes when heat is applied to it. Mixed with air in the right proportions these fumes can explode violently when the critical temperature is reached or when ignited by a spark from a welding or cutting torch. Sometimes even a spark from a mechanical tool will be enough to ignite highly explosive vapors such as petrol.

Empty Fuel Container

 Hazards involving Empty Fuel Container

v  Drums not cleaned properly

v  Bungs not removed when the drums were cleaned

v  Drums used as trestles to support other steelworks (e.g. during oxyacetylene cutting work).

v  Lacking of knowledge of the hazard associated with cutting drums.

      The risks involving Empty Fuel Container:

v  Drums that contain residual flammable substances or vapors may explode when exposed to heat causing:

Ø The shock wave or blast produced by the rise in pressure may damage ear drums, lungs and circulatory system.

Ø Fragments from the vessel become missiles which can cause penetrating and damaging wounds.

Ø You may be hurled against a wall or hard object and suffer broken bones and further internal injuries.

v  Additionally, drums that have contained substances such as pesticides may release hazardous gases when exposed to heat.

    Think - Before cutting or grinding Empty Fuel Container:


v  What has the drum been used for?

v  Was it a flammable or combustible liquid or gas?

v  Was it a chemical?
                                           Is there a hazard diamond on the label?

      Control Measures of Empty Fuel Container:

Usually, sparks or heat from the cutting tool cause the explosion but it may not happen immediately as you cut into the drum. The very act of opening a cut in the drum may allow air to seep in slowly, gradually creating an explosive mix with the chemical inside. Thus, several minutes may elapse while the drum is being cut before the air/fuel mixture becomes explosive.

Following are the control measures of Empty Fuel Container:

v  Never cut drums that have contained flammable or combustible liquids or gases. Even drums that have been empty for a very long time can contain enough residue substances to explode and/or emit hazardous gas when exposed to heat. Be aware that rinsing drums with water is not a fail-safe method for purging vapors from containers.

v  Do not apply heat to drums that have held other chemicals such as pesticides, as any gas emitted may cause serious harm to health. Never weld or grind near empty drums.

v  Do not use drums as a welding or work platform.

v  Correctly label all drums on site.

v  Have material safety data sheets (MSDS) available for all the products.

v  Dispose of drums appropriately.

v  Store empty drums (with bungs removed) in a well-ventilated place, away from other work areas.


“Stay Alert Don’t get Hurt”


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