Resource Newsletter
December 2012

Safety Notes - A worker is injured in an oxygen tank explosion

Incident: Explosion

Business: Medical response

Employee: service technician

Worker injured in an oxygen tank explosion

A vehicle service technician who worked for an emergency medical response company was cleaning and preparing an ambulance for the next shift.

He was checking the ambulance's on-board oxygen cylinder, preparing to top it off to 2,000-2,250 psi using a recently upgraded oxygen transfer system.

He shut off the valve on the oxygen cylinder and loosened the connection at the cylinder to drain a short section of the line. After connecting the header valve/flexible fill line using a quick disconnect fitting, he then opened the on-board oxygen cylinder valve. Immediately after opening the oxygen cylinder valve he reach over to open the header valve and heard a "pop" and there was an explosion.

He saw a flash of light and felt intense heat as the explosion blew apart the header valve and two sections of flexible fill hose.

He fell to the ground then crawled around the ambulance to the crew room where on-site paramedics treated him before transferring him to the hospital with a pulmonary contusion and second-degree burns to his face and head.

Findings

Oregon OSHA investigators found the maintenance manager assigned the task of upgrading the oxygen transfer system had no previous experience installing it. As a result, a number of the parts that were purchased for the system, including the failed valve and other fittings, were not designed for oxygen service.

Oregon OSHA cited the employer with two serious violations for not requiring employees to use personal protective equipment (the victim wasn't wearing eye protection when the explosion occurred) and for the unsafe installation of the oxygen system.

Oregon OSHA also posted a red-tag notice at one of the employer's other sites after learning the system was also installed at that location with parts that weren't compatible for oxygen service.

Applicable standards

437-002-0134(8)(a) – Eye and face protection

654.010 – Employers to furnish safe place of employment