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Farm mechanic died after torch cutting explosion, Oregon

Oregon Case Report: 17OR007
Release Date: March 2019


On March 21, 2017, a 46‐year‐old Hispanic farm mechanic used a plasma torch to remove the lid from an old 55‐gallon drum that formerly contained flammable brake wash fluid. The drum was empty but not cleaned. The first cut with the torch caused a flash and explosion that blew the bottom off of the drum and knocked the mechanic unconscious. He died in the hospital three months later.

Oregon Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (OR‐FACE) investigators concluded that to help prevent similar occurrences, employers should:

  • Never weld, cut, or perform other hot work on a drum or other metal container unless it has been cleaned and vented thoroughly.
  • To further reduce the risk of ignition or explosion, use a non‐sparking, manual tool when removing a lid from a metal drum or barrel.
  • Routinely assess job hazards, provide regular, periodic training and communications on site‐specific hazards and safe work practices, and take corrective action when needed.
  • Check and monitor employees’ knowledge of job hazards and implementation of safe practices to control those hazards.
  • Provide appropriate, adequate personal protective equipment and ensure its appropriate use.

Farm mechanic died after torch cutting explosion, Oregon [PDF 645 KB]