The OSHA Laboratory Standard defines an explosive as a chemical that causes a sudden, almost instantaneous release of pressure, gas, and heat when subjected to sudden shock, pressure, or high temperature. Under the Department of Transportation (DOT) hazard class system, explosives are listed as hazard class 1.
Fortunately, most laboratories do not use many explosives; however, there are a number of chemicals that can become unstable and/or potentially explosive over time due to contamination with air, water, other materials such as metals, or when the chemical dries out.
Explosives can result in damage to surrounding materials (hoods, glassware, windows, people, etc.), generation of toxic gases, and fires. If you plan to conduct an experiment where the potential for an explosion exists, first ask yourself the question; “Is there another chemical that could be substituted in the experiment that does not have an explosion potential?” If you must use a chemical that is potentially explosive, or for those compounds that you know are explosive, (even low powered explosives) you must first obtain prior approval from the Principal Investigator to use such chemicals. After obtaining prior approval from your Principal Investigator, thoroughly read the SDSs and any other chemical resources related to the potentially explosive compound(s) to ensure potential incidents are minimized.
Whenever setting up experiments using potentially explosive compounds:
- Always use the smallest quantity of the chemical possible.
- Always conduct the experiment within a fume hood and use in conjunction with a properly rated safety shield.
- Be sure to remove any unnecessary equipment and other chemicals (particularly highly toxic and flammables) away from the immediate work area.
- Be sure to notify other people in the laboratory what experiment is being conducted, what the potential hazards are, and when the experiment will be run.
- Do not use metal or wooden devices when stirring, cutting, scraping, etc. with potentially explosive compounds. Non-sparking plastic devices should be used instead.
- Ensure other safety devices such as high temperature controls, water overflow devices, etc., are used in combination to help minimize any potential incidents.
- Properly dispose of any hazardous waste and note on the hazardous waste tag any special precautions that may need to be taken if the chemical is potentially explosive.
- Always wear appropriate PPE, including the correct gloves, lab coat or apron, safety goggles used in conjunction with a face shield, and explosion-proof shields when working with potentially explosive chemicals.
For storage purposes, always date chemical containers when received and opened. Pay particular attention to those compounds that must remain moist or wet so they do not become explosive (ex. Picric acid, 2,4-Dinitrophenyl hydrazine, etc.). Pay particular attention to any potentially explosive compounds that appear to exhibit the following signs of contamination:
- Deterioration of the outside of the container.
- Crystalline growth in or outside the container.
- Discoloration of the chemical.
If you discover a potentially explosive compound that exhibits any of these signs of contamination, contact EHS at 607-255-8200 for more assistance.
Examples of explosive and potentially explosive chemicals include:
- Compounds containing the functional groups azide, acetylide, diazo, nitroso, haloamine, peroxide, and ozonide
- Di- and Tri-nitro compounds
- Peroxide forming compounds
- Picric acid (dry)
- 2,4-Dinitrophenylhydrazine (dry)
- Benzoyl peroxide (dry)