The Dangers of Empty Drums

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Empty drums in warehouses or on the worksite are bombs waiting for an ignition source. As the summer heat bears down on Nevada, empty barrels are an ever present threat that workers in manufacturing, agriculture, oil and gas production, and many other industries should remain alert to. Failing to mitigate the risks and remove the threat can have potentially fatal consequences.

Combustible Contents

Oil, gas, cleaning agents, solvents, and many other potentially explosive materials are transported in drums. Many are transported in 55 gallon drums. As the amount of liquid in the drum is reduced, this creates space within the drum where fumes can collect and build up. As the temperature rises and the liquid within the drum evaporates, this creates considerable pressure inside the drum.

Drums damaged by rust, or weakened by the use of low-grade steel can burst when put under pressure. This can cause a sudden release of potentially explosive materials. If an ignition source is nearby, the contents will explode. If other barrels are nearby, this can cause an uncontrolled chain reaction.

Improperly Cleaned Drums

Workers in Nevada who are tasked with filling or repairing damaged drums are at significant risk of suffering severe burns or blast related injuries. Residues and remnants within the barrel can combust when workers apply a hammer, chisel, or welding torch to mend the barrel. This is a significant problem in drum reconditioning facilities where often times labels and other markings identifying the drum’s former contents are missing or illegible. With no knowledge of what the barrel contained, these workers unknowingly place themselves at risk or serious injury or death.

The Scale of the Problem

The true size and scope of the danger of drum fires and explosions is not fully known. The Milwaukee Sentinel Journal investigated the problem of exploding drums and discovered 69 deaths and dozens of injuries from 2002 to 2017. But, this number is likely much higher because this data does not include injuries and deaths suffered within drum reconditioning facilities where the risk is known to be significantly greater.

While companies that violate established safety protocols risk fines and other penalties for safety violations, it’s the workers who bear the brunt of the burden. The types of burn injuries, lacerations, and trauma suffered in drum blasts are life-changing, and potentially life-threatening. When they occur, an injury attorney in Las Vegas can help workers collect the compensation they need to recover from these devastating injuries.