October 1, 2012

Safety Notes

Accident Report

Incident | Explosion

Business | Restaurant

Employee | Restaurant employee

A worker using lacquer thinner to remove glue from a bathroom floor was severely burned when a nearby pilot light for a gas-powered water heater ignited the vapors.

worker injured removing glue from floorThe victim had removed floor tiles to replace the floor in a 6-by-11-foot bathroom. He noticed that there was a lot of old glue on the floor and decided to remove it so the new flooring would lay flat.

After trying unsuccessfully to scrape off the old glue with hand tools, he decided to try dissolving it with lacquer thinner that he bought in a one-gallon container at a home remodeling store.

He poured little puddles of thinner around the floor from the one-gallon container, leaving the bathroom door, and a window and door just outside of the restroom, open for ventilation. Then, he began spreading the thinner around on the floor with a broom.

Connected to the bathroom was a small room where the gas-powered water heater was located. When the vapors from the lacquer thinner reached the pilot light, there was an explosion.

The victim ran outside while he was still on fire. Workers at a car lot next door, who were outside washing cars, hosed him down. The local fire department responded, put out the fire in the bathroom, and transported the worker to the hospital. He was hospitalized with second-degree burns over 30 percent of his body.


  • This accident could have been prevented if the employer had followed the basic elements of a hazard communication program.
  • The signs on the water heater clearly warned against using flammable liquids in the area. The lacquer thinner container also clearly warned against using the thinner near any ignition source.

Applicable standards

Hazard communication, 1910.1200(H)(1) – The employer did not provide employees with information and training on the hazardous chemicals in their work areas at the time of their initial assignment and whenever a new physical or health hazard was introduced into the work areas.

Flammable and combustible liquids, 1910.106(e)(2)(iv)(C) – Class I flammable liquids were used where there were open flames or other sources of ignition within the possible path of vapor travel.

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