The heat was intense and the whoosh as the fire exploded past you took your breath away. You were thankful that you had not turned the corner sooner, as the cloud of flammable gasses suddenly exploded. It is a hazard that you face every day that you come to work. You were lucky that time, but you know it does not always come down to luck.
A flash fire is a sudden intense fire from the ignition of flammable substances in the air. The fire is short and intense, with a rapidly moving flame front that is generally of a short duration with limited fuel. It self-extinguishes, as its fuel is limited, unlike fuel fed fires that can also occur.
All fires need a fuel source, an ignition source, and oxygen. A flash fire is quick?simply because there is limited fuel. But this does not make a flash fire any less dangerous and the impacts are still potentially catastrophic.
The most important thing a workers in the oil and gas industry can do is come to work prepared with the best personal protective equipment available to them. The type of work that you do will help to define the clothing that you want to wear, but in all cases it is important to keep it clean and well maintained. Non-flame resistant clothing or dirty personal protective clothing can provide a flash fire with a new fuel source–one that is directly in contact with your skin.
The most important thing is to stay clear of flash fires, but if you do come in contact with one, the old adage of “stop, drop, and roll” is important to remember and employ. The secondary fuel source provided by your clothing will continue to burn after the flash fire has extinguished.
Flame resistant clothing provides a protective layer between you and a fire. It self-extinguishes, which provides a special protection if you are exposed to a flash fire. Not all fire resistant clothing is designed the same, with some being better suited to exposure in a flash fire environment.
In any case, make sure that your fire protective clothing is certified by the National Fire Protection Association to standard 2112, and look for a product that has a lower burn rating than the 50% total body burn that is the minimum for certification. And remember to keep your gear as clean as possible – you can even consider wearing an extra set of fire resistant coveralls over your regular fire protective clothing when you are doing an especially dirty job.
Flash fires are one potential hazard of working in the oil and gas industry. With proper protective measures one can reduce the potential for major injuries, or at least take steps to ensure that whatever injuries are sustained are minor.
The San Francisco attorneys at Alexander Law Group, LLP represent people who have been injured due to faulty products or the negligence of others. If you or a loved one have been injured, call us at 888.777.1776, or you can contact us online, for a free consultation.