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Flash Fires: What Oil & Gas Workers Need to Know


Flash fires are sudden, intense fires which are caused by the ignition of flammable substances in the air, such as gas or combustible particles. These fires rarely last more than a few seconds, but flash fires still can have devastating effects. Unlike fueled fires, which will burn longer, flash fires burn threw their fuel source in a matter of seconds. Because of this, different precautions need to be taken for flash fires.

The Causes of Flash Fires

Fire is a chemical chain reaction that requires heat, oxygen, and fuel. When these three components are present, a fire can occur. Fuel can come in the form of hydrocarbons, which are often found in oil and gas environments, or combustible dust, such as sawdust. When fuel and oxygen in the correct mixture are exposed to a heat source, such as sparks, welding, or a running motor, a fire will occur.

Preventing Flash Fires

Safely storing chemicals can reduce the chance of flash fires by reducing the chance for flammable vapors to escape the container. Never store chemicals in corroded or punctured containers. Keep flammable chemicals away from heat sources, and be sure to check them regularly for spills or leaks. Only store chemicals in sealed containers with tightly fitting lids. Ventilation is key for allowing fumes to dissipate when the chemicals are in use. This can reduce the chances of flash fire, but also reduce your exposure to the harmful effects of inhaling many chemicals. Only use chemicals in the manner for which they are intended to be used.

Control heat sources when working with flames, sparks, electricity, or other heat sources. Work in an area that’s free of combustible or flammable materials when using heat. Wearing protective clothing can protect in case a fire occurs.

Protection from Flash Fires

Because flash fires aren’t as lasting as fueled fires, the protective clothing requirements for protecting workers against these fires differs. Flame resistant clothing can come in primary protective apparel, such as a firefighter’s turnout gear, or in secondary protective apparel, such as flame resistant daily wear. Secondary protective apparel is lighter in construction and not designed to withstand lasting flame exposure, but it can protect workers from sustaining severe burns in the occurrence of a flash fire. It is more comfortable for workers to wear for daily wear, allowing them protection that they can work in. Qualified safety personnel should perform a safety inspection to determine what level of protection different positions or tasks require.

Non-protective clothing can increase the damage caused by flash fires. Regular clothing can ignite and continue to burn after the initial fire is extinguished. Unless extinguished quickly, burning clothing can cause far more extensive injuries. Flame resistant apparel is self-extinguishing, and will not continue to burn. It also is insulated to reduce the chances of second degree burns through the clothing.

Proper maintenance is important in extending the life of and maximizing the protection provided by flame resistant clothing. Flammable contaminants, such as oil or gasoline, can compromise the effectiveness of flame resistant apparel. To help protect against soiling, wear a disposable flame resistant coverall for dirtier jobs.

For oil and gas workers, flash fires are a very real hazard. Taking steps to protect against flash fires by observing these habits and wearing proper protective apparel. Reducing the risk of fire can create a safer work environment and save lives.

If you are injured in a fire at work, get in touch with our experienced San Antonio oil field accident attorneys. We have the experience fighting for the rights of injured oil field workers needed to tackle your claim. Our team is dedicated to protecting your best interests, and helping you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact The Law Office of George P. Escobedo & Associates, PLLC to schedule a free case evaluation.

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