Exploding Cylinder in Garbage

July 31, 2007

What Happened?

On April 11, 2007, an employee of Campus Recycling and Refuse Services was alarmed when a suspected compressed gas cylinder ruptured in the rear hopper of a garbage truck. The employee was standing at the rear of the truck and had activated the blade that sweeps the garbage from the hopper into the body of the truck for further compaction. The pressurized gas cylinder was believed to be concealed inside a plastic trash bag. The sweeping action of the blade ruptured the cylinder and the residual contents sprayed into the employee’s face.

A cylinder in a garbage truck may be hazardous because the walls and/or valve of pressurized containers are thin enough to be susceptible to rupture under the pressure of the mechanical sweep arm. When the cylinder ruptured the residual pressure inside of it released and blew its contents and other material into the face of the refuse worker.

What were the Causes and Contributing Factors?

Someone discarded a pressurized vessel in the regular waste collected by Refuse Services. Pressurized containers should not be disposed of in regular waste streams for two reasons. First, the contents of these containers are often hazardous or toxic and do not belong in a regular landfill, and second, the pressure vessels present dangerous exposure to refuse workers.

What Corrective Action was Taken?

The residents of the building were re-educated about proper trash disposal and what is allowed in that waste stream.

How can incidents like this be prevented?

Building occupants must be very careful about what items are discarded in the regular trash. Chemicals need to be disposed of separately but there are other items that need to be restricted from the waste stream.

Please see the Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) Dispose of Waste page for further information about the proper disposal of various items, including:

Electronic Waste
Biohazardous Waste
Controlled Substances
Hazardous Waste

Please contact EH&S if you have any questions.