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Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

Accident Report Detail

Accident: 200880219 - Employee Killed When Methyl Alcohol Vapors Explode

Accident: 200880219 -- Report ID: 0215800 -- Event Date: 05/08/1998
InspectionOpen DateSICEstablishment Name
30063025805/08/19982951Suit-Kote Corp
Employee #1 was in a pole barn, using a 55-gallon drum as a work bench to cut a steel gusset plate. His immediate supervisor was behind him, welding extra "steel paddles" for a loader used to pick up asphalt. The supervisor had been welding for about 30 min. when another coworker was directed to drain the cooling systems on three trucks, all "mount units," each of which contained about 20 gallons of a flammable product. Vapors from the product exploded and Employee #1 died of head injuries when he was struck by flying debris. The supervisor later stated that he had worked for Suit-Kote since 1983 but had never received any formal training on welding. Before that, he had owned a farm, where he used to do some welding. He and Employee #1 were working in the pole barn because it was raining outside and they needed something to do; he would have done the work in the welding shop but both welders over there were in use. While he was welding he had told Employee #1 to cut some gusset plates in half, saying that he could take them over to the (welding) shop and cut them. The supervisor remembered Employee #1 leaving with the plates. He did not know why Employee #1 had come back, although he noticed that Employee #1 was "monkeying around with the tanks." The coworker who had been draining the trucks had never performed that process before, and did not know that the product was flammable. At the time of the accident, the facility's only MSDS for the product--which the coworker did not see--showed that it was combustible, not flammable: the MSDS, titled "Window Washer Solvent," showed the product as a combustible liquid containing 40 percent methyl alcohol and 60 percent water. It actually contained 99.85 percent methyl alcohol, which has a flash point of 52 degrees Ft. Another employee, who had worked at Suit-Kote for about 18 years, thought the company had gotten rid of the product years ago because it had caused a fire about 12 or 13 years earlier.
Keywords: methyl alcohol, flammable liquid, flammable vapors, low flash point, work rules, welding, explosion, inexperience, chemical vapor, untrained
Employee # Inspection Age Sex Degree Nature Occupation
1 300630258 Fatality Concussion Occupation not reported

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