Mining Publication: NIOSH Hazard ID 4 - Ignition Hazard from Drilling into Sealed Frames of Agricultural Equipment
Recently, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), through its Community Partners for Healthy Farming program in New York, received two separate reports of farm workers who were injured while attempting to drill holes into sealed plow frames in order to mount a hitch or a "slow-moving vehicle" sign. These workers received serious skin burns and other injuries when the drill bits penetrated the frames releasing and igniting flammable gases. Hydrogen and methane gas may be produced within sealed frames that are filled during manufacture with scrap metal ballast. The uncleaned, assorted machine shop metal scrap apparently reacts electrochemically with water and emulsion-type cutting oils to liberate flammable gases. Although the reported ignitions involved plows from the same manufacturer, the use of scrap metal fill may not be unique to plows or to that manufacturer. The potential for such ignitions exists in any equipment with similar ballast in sealed compartments during drilling, cutting, welding, or other operations that both release the gases and provide an ignition source.