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Green Job Hazards: Hydrogen Fuel Cells - Fire and Explosion

Hydrogen used in the fuel cells is a very flammable gas and can cause fires and explosions if it is not handled properly. Hydrogen is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. Natural gas and propane are also odorless, but a sulfur-containing (Mercaptan) odorant is added to these gases so that a leak can be detected. At present, it is hard to tell if there is a hydrogen leak because it has no odor to it. Hydrogen is a very light gas. There are no known odorants that can be added to hydrogen that are light enough to diffuse at the same rate as hydrogen. In other words, by the time a worker smells an odorant, the hydrogen concentrations might have already exceeded its lower flammability limit.

Hydrogen used in the fuel cells is a very flammable gas and can cause fires and explosions if it is not handled properly.  Hydrogen fires are invisible and if a worker believes that there is a hydrogen leak, it should always be presumed that a flame is present. When workers are required to fight hydrogen-related fires, employers must provide workers with necessary protective gear to protect them from such invisible flames and potential explosion hazards.  There are several OSHA standards that may apply to employers who produce or use hydrogen.

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