Friday, May 27, 2016
A researcher who was experienced at disposing of materials, decided to dispose of a very old container of lithium aluminum hydride(LAH) which was not being used due to it's questionable quality. The researcher thought that the material needed to be stabilized before packaging. Errors during quenching, caused a larger than intended amount of LAH to be transferred. The researcher realized that a metal fire was likely to result so he quickly closed the sash.
A metal fire started and the LSO, who happened to be nearby at the time, put it out by covering with sand. No one was injured and the fire only caused minor damage to one nearby stir/hotplate.
Make sure that those who dispose of hazardous waste for your lab know they should not open or attempt to quench dangerous materials they do not work with, especially if it isn’t necessary for disposal.
Commercial reagents such as this can be disposed of in their original containers.
If you have reactive materials in labware or in containers that are in poor condition, and you are not sure how to handle, contact DEHS for assistance.
Before handling reagents that may cause a metal fire such as this you should review safety guidance (your group SOP, DEHS pyrophorics factsheet, or manufacturer guides) which should cover quenching and how to handle small flames.
When handling pyrophorics have an agent to smother small flames nearby such as sand, silica, or an inverted beaker. Class D fire extinguisher should be available for larger fires.