Pump room explosion prompts safety warning

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland issued a reminder on the importance of managing risks of fire and explosion from the ignition of flammable substances in areas which can have a hazardous atmosphere.

A worker was seriously injured last month in an explosion at a waste treatment plant at the Townsville golf club. Early investigations indicate that this may have involved an explosive gas or substance in the pump room, but the ignition source has not been confirmed.

WHSQ recommends the following control measures to manage these risks:

  • Identifying hazardous areas in accordance with AS/NZS 60079.10.1 (hazardous areas are those areas of potential fire or explosion risk due to the presence of flammable gas, vapour or mist in sufficient quantities)
  • Eliminating hazardous areas where possible, otherwise reducing their size as much as possible
  • Eliminating ignition sources from hazardous areas anytime an explosive gas atmosphere is present and managing their use anytime a hazardous atmosphere is present (e.g. when a flammable material exceeds 5 percent of its lower explosive limit)
  • Ensuring equipment installed within a hazardous area are compliant with the wiring rules and provided with an up-to-date verification dossier
  • Minimising the generation of flammable vapours, gases and mists and controlling their emissions
  • Having equipment and processes available to detect leaks of flammable gases or vapours and enable response actions to be taken
  • Ensuring incompatible materials are isolated from hazardous areas
  • Reducing quantities of flammable and combustible materials
  • Ensuring equipment used in handling flammable hazardous chemicals is maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s or qualified person’s instructions

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