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Explosive Hazard Associated with Selected Self-Contained Breathing Devices

On August 15, 1985, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a notice in the Federal Register requiring the removal from service by October 1, 1985, of certain cylinders used in self-contained breathing devices that had not been retrofitted with a protective steel neck ring. These cylinders may rupture without warning to produce life-threatening explosions. Since mid-1983, several have exploded while in storage or during recharge operations. The neck of one exploding cylinder went through the roof of the building in which the cylinder was being recharged and was found six blocks away. One nonfatal injury has been reported in a worker who was 15-20 feet from such a unit that exploded while being recharged; he was hit by the hose assembly. The hoop-wrapped cylinders in question are high-pressure aluminum air cylinders, manufactured by Luxfer, USA, Ltd., that have not as yet been retrofitted with a corrective steel neck ring. They are identifiable by the markings: DOT-E 7235-4500.

Luxfer, USA, Ltd. has initiated a nationwide recall and retrofit program, including a system for retrofitting or replacing the hazardous cylinders. On August 28, 1985, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a Respirator Users Notice announcing that NIOSH/Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)-certified, self-contained breathing devices using such cylinders that were not retrofitted, were decertified effective October 1, 1985. These notices were disseminated via the Federal Register, the U.S. Fire Administration mailing list, lists of affected manufacturers, user organizations (i.e., unions and trade associations), known customers, and diving shops where such cylinders are often recharged.

As of November 27, 1985, 17,000 (24%) of the 72,000 affected cylinders in use in the United States had not yet been retrofitted; 9,000 of the 17,000 have not been located, and 8,000 have been located but not submitted to Luxfer, USA, Ltd. for retrofit or replacement. Each is a potential hazard that could explode at any time. Reported by Div of Safety Research, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: To reduce weight and extend the duration of use of self-contained breathing devices, lightweight, fiberglass-wrapped aluminum cylinders that can be charged to 4,500 pounds per square inch were first made available in the late 1970s. In the past 2 years, problems with the high-pressure aluminum cylinders produced by Luxfer, USA, Ltd. began to emerge.

NIOSH and MSHA jointly test and certify respiratory protective devices, including self-contained breathing devices, which are commonly used by workers who need emergency air supplies (firefighters, spill-response teams for hazardous materials, and other laboratory and industrial personnel). DOT is responsible for certifying the cylinders used in these devices.

Anyone possessing, or knowing the location of, a DOT-E 7235-4500 hoop-wrapped aluminum cylinder that has not been retrofitted with a steel neck ring should immediately: (1) remove the cylinder from service and slowly depressurize it, and (2) contact Luxfer, USA, Ltd., P.O. Box 5300-92517, 1995 Third Street, Riverside, California 92507; telephone (714) 684-5110. Breathing devices manufactured by other companies are not affected by this recall.

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