Dry Scraping Causes Chemical Explosion

November 13, 2015

What Happened?

A postdoctoral researcher was synthesizing potentially explosive material in a fume hood, following a well-established procedure published in a peer-reviewed journal. The researcher was transferring a residual amount of the synthesized material using a plastic spatula when the material exploded in his hands. The shattered glassware caused some minor cuts to the researcher’s hands.

Other group members helped the injured researcher wash the injuries and called campus police. He was taken to the hospital where he got treatment for the injuries, and he was released from the hospital a couple of hours later.

What went right?

  • The researcher was working behind the sash in a properly functioning chemical fume hood, as called for in the relevant SOP.1

  • The researcher was wearing a flame-resistant (FR) coat, gloves, and safety glasses, as called for in the relevant SOP.1
  • The researcher had worked with the same conditions and scale multiple times in the past, and was familiar with the synthesis.
  • Relevant training was completed, including EHS 101: Laboratory Safety Fundamentals Refresher and the group’s hands-on training for work with Potentially Explosive Compounds (PEC).
  • A synthesis-specific safety debrief was completed before starting the work as required by the group’s internal policy.
  • After the explosion, other group members in the room dropped to the floor and used the closest exit to crawl out of the laboratory.
  • Emergency protocol was followed once the incident took place (irrigation of the affected areas, removal of contaminated PPE and clothing, contacting emergency personnel).
  • The group used the emergency signs posted in the laboratory to locate the correct emergency response contact information.
  • After the explosion, group members recognized the potential hazards created by the explosion and did not reenter the laboratory until instructed to do so by the fire department.
laboratory bench after explosion

Photo 1 - laboratory bench after the explosion