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When cleanliness leads to hazards

May 24, 2013
By Philip J. Troy, President, ComplyNet Corporation
When someone says “internal combustion,” we generally don’t envision an explosion inside a dealership. Too often, we should.
A recent fireball in a dealership tool room injured two employees before causing further physical damage to the building. It seems two employees wanted to give the tool room a thorough cleaning and used spray containers of a flammable brake cleaner to get rid of the grease and grime.
The employees sprayed and scrubbed, creating an atmosphere thick with the solvent vapor. A spark was all that separated the vapor from a fireball.
It happens that a compressor was located in the tool room, elevated so that it didn’t take up any floor space. When the demand for pressure was sensed by the compressor, it turned itself on, creating the critical spark.
Every employer is required to determine what chemicals are used in his business, who is allowed to use them and where their use is appropriate.  That’s been the law for more than 50 years.
In this case, it appears that flammable sprays were not prohibited in a room with a compressor that could trigger a spark at any moment. These kinds of things usually happen in dealerships because employees are conscientious but untrained.  Employees who are exposed to hazardous chemicals, such as brake clean, are required to receive  Hazard Communication (Right to Know) training on the chemicals they use. The training explains things like flammable vapors and ignition points. 
The quick lesson is that you should check your tool room for the presence of a compressor. If it has a compressor, post a sign prohibiting the use of flammable sprays in the room. Also note that gasoline cans or cylinders of flammable gas should not be stored in a room containing a compressor.
Finally, make sure that Hazard Communication training is delivered to all employees in the Parts, Service, Detail and Body shop departments. These matters can be confusing. If you have questions on any dealer responsibilities, training or regulations, contact me at (800) 653-1869.
ComplyNet is a member of the CATA.