Shipping Container Explodes, Injuring Worker

Shipping Container Explodes, Injuring Worker


A full tank of propane can generate the same
explosive force as over a hundred kilograms of TNT. Stored inside a shipping container, this tank
became a bomb. Workers at a construction site used this barbecue
during their morning break. Afterwards, the burner valves were turned
off. In the afternoon the barbecue, with its tank
connected, was carried into a shipping container used
to store equipment. Shortly after, the doors on the container
were locked. The valve on the barbecue’s propane tank had
been left on. One of the burner valves was also on – likely
opened inadvertently while the barbecue was being carried. Propane gas leaked into the container. Heavier than air, it filled the container
from the bottom up. The container’s vents were too high and too
small to vent the propane. Overnight, the propane built up to form an
explosive atmosphere. Early next morning, a worker unlocked the
doors to an office container, and then unlocked the equipment container
storing the barbecue. He didn’t smell any propane. He returned to and entered the office container. Inside the equipment container was a soft
drink cooler. As its cooling system cycled, its thermostat’s
relay generated a spark. The propane ignited. The container exploded, throwing the worker
against the wall of the office container. Fortunately, he survived with only minor injuries. The property damage was extensive. Windows of nearby buildings and vehicles were
shattered. The explosion was so powerful that one of
the equipment container’s doors, weighing over a hundred kilograms, flew across the
street into a park. How can we prevent similar incidents? Store refillable propane tanks like the one
in this incident outdoors in a well-ventilated area. The instructions for this barbecue say that
if you plan to store the barbecue indoors, you need to disconnect and store the tank
outdoors. Shipping containers are commonly used at construction sites to store supplies and equipment. For weather resistance, they are designed
to be sealed, with only small vents providing limited ventilation. This design traps flammable vapours and gases,
increasing the risk of fire and/or explosion. Adequate ventilation is a key factor to reducing
that risk. So, if you do use shipping containers to store
flammable substances such as paints and fuels; and even equipment containing fuel,
make sure those containers have adequate ventilation and are designed for the safe containment
of the substances. Some municipalities have specific bylaws regarding
the use of shipping containers for storing flammable substances. Check your local bylaws and also the BC Fire
Code for additional requirements.

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14 thoughts on “Shipping Container Explodes, Injuring Worker”

  • JimsEquipmentShed says:

    Well, not gonna get their deposit back on that one…… I can see the desire to keep the tank inside though, storage outside would probably result in a missing tank pretty quickly.

  • It must take some serious force to open up a shipping container like that, anybody anywhere near could have been killed, quite a scary situation, and one to keep in mind

  • Jordan Burton says:

    This reminds me of a old job I had. It is not if but when this will happen again because many contractors use these containers to store fuel and equiptment overnight. My old job we built a shed for gas that wouldn't create a closed space after we complained of the fumes.

  • It's not often you get the air fuel mixture this perfect…..if it had gone off with the doors relocked it would have taken out the whole block.
    He didn't smell anything because propane is heavier than air so it would have spilled out the container like water not reaching his head. It was probably the air he let into the container that caused it to blow as the drinks cooler would have cycled through the night. Propane is at it's most explosive when 95% of the mix is air.

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