WorkSafeBC Publishes Bulletin on Preventing Pentane Gas Fires

"Manufacturers should, and generally do, build in a period for off-gassing that will reduce the amount of pentane within the EPS foam before shipping," it says. "Despite this, residual amounts of pentane remain in shipped EPS foam blocks and other products."

WorkSafeBC recently published a new safety bulletin about reducing the risk of pentane gas fires and explosions.

The two-page bulletin explains that expanded polystyrene is a synthetic foam material has a wide range of uses in many industries, including as insulation in buildings (especially cold storage buildings), piping, concrete formwork, and wine tanks; wharf and float manufacturing; and applications on movie sets and amusement parks.

The foam releases pentane - a highly flammable gas, it says, and if the pentane has not completely off-gassed and the EPS foam is encased within the structure, the pentane becomes trapped. An ignition source, such as a welding torch or drill, that cuts into the structure can ignite the pentane and cause a fire or an explosion.

"Manufacturers should, and generally do, build in a period for off-gassing that will reduce the amount of pentane within the EPS foam before shipping," it says. "Despite this, residual amounts of pentane remain in shipped EPS foam blocks and other products."

The risk reduction measures listed in the bulletin include:

  • Find out whether you have EPS foam at your site. If you do, ensure it's located in a well-ventilated area where it can safety off-gas.
  • Put up signs at or near the locations of EPS foam and make sure workers understand the importance of not encasing it.
  • When doing hot work on or near the location of EPS foam, allow for additional space and do the work outside if possible; use appropriate PPE, such as flame-resistant apparel; and minimize the number of workers in the area during the time the hot work is being done.
  • If it is absolutely necessary to encase EPS foam, allow sufficient time for it to off-gas before encasing it.

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