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Re: Fire at Oak Ridge K-25 Plant

If the welder was using a cutting torch, there is the possibility that oxygen 
could have permeated his clothing.  If that happened, the clothing would have 
ignited no matter what the fabric. 
The opinions expressed are strictly mine. 
Bill Lipton 

At 07:47 AM 3/20/97 -0600, you wrote:
>    =20
>     Can anyone provide me with information pertaining to the fire at the=
>     Oak Ridge K-25 plant (back on Feb 13, 1997) concerning a welder who=20
>     was fatally burned wearing AntiCs?  Sorry for the tardiness, I was not=
>     yet subscribed back then and I understand information was put out on=
>     RADSAFE.  Please send it to my eMail address: =20
>     werner.k.paulhardt@consenco.com.
>    =20
>     Thanks in advance,
>    =20
>     Werner Paulhardt
>     Supervisor-Dosimetry
>     Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant
>     werner.k.paulhardt@consenco.com
>     (410)495-4773
>     fax (410) 495 3980
The DOE is presently investigating this incident as a Type A Incident (their
highest classification).  Initially, the DOE information that was released
said that the welder was working at the Oak Ridge K-25 site on
2/13/97 using a cutting torch.  "The victim was totally engulfed in
flames when his two layers of anti-contamination suits over a pair of
coveralls burned.  All of the clothing was cotton.  The exact
source of ignition is currently unknown, however the burning of
the clothing and coveralls is a concern."

In the latest release on this incident, the DOE (see Week 11
Operating Experience Report) has stated the following:


"On March 7, 1997, Dr. Tara O'Toole, assistant secretary, Environment,=20
Safety and Health, issued a memorandum outlining the Type A Accident=20
Investigation Board's preliminary findings on the February 13, 1997,=20
fatality at Oak Ridge K-25 site. The following is a summary of Dr.=20
O'Toole's memorandum.

"The fatality occurred while welders were using oxygen/acetylene cutting=20
torches to remove equipment from a facility outside a fixed shop area in=20
a high-contamination area. Because the work was being performed in a=20
radiological area, the welders wore anti-contamination clothing in=20
addition to full-face respirators and welders' masks. The Board's=20
preliminary analysis of the accident indicated that sparks and/or molten=20
metal (slag) from the cutting operations ignited the welder's=20
anti-contamination clothing. Based on preliminary input, the Board=20
identified the flammability of the anti-contamination clothing, the=20
worker's inability to see that his clothing was on fire, and the lack of=20
a designated/dedicated fire watch for the operations as contributing=20
factors to the accident. The fire consumed the welder's clothing in a=20
short period of time (approximately 3 minutes or less).

"The welder wore anti-contamination clothing that was 100 percent cotton=20
and not treated with flame retardant. Flame-retardant anti-contamination=20
clothing is available to workers at some DOE sites. However, there are=20
no regulatory, industrial, or DOE requirements stating such clothing=20
must be used in operations similar to those being performed at the K-25=20
site when the accident occurred. Personnel safety responsibilities for=20
the fire watch were not specifically defined or required for the welding=20
operations. As a result, the memorandum recommends that operations=20
office managers review the following personnel safety issues for work at=20
their sites involving similar hazards.

"=95adequacy of fire watch procedures involving personnel safety as well as=
property loss control (e.g. maintaining line of sight)=20
"=95adequacy of fire watch training regarding personnel safety and emergency
"=95adequacy of fire mitigation equipment (for both personnel and property)=
available to fire watches to carry out their responsibilities=20
"=95adequacy of existing policy/requirements for using=
anti-contamination clothing when workers are involved in operations with=20
similar hazards=20

"The Accident Investigation Board is continuing to investigate this=20
event. Findings from the Board's final report will be disseminated in a=20
future OE Weekly Summary. "

Here at General Atomics, we have conducted burn tests on our
protective clothing to decide what our course of action
should be.  We demostrated that an untreated cotton coverall will
burn when exposed to flame, but if the source of ignition is
removed, then the flame will go out.  In other words, the PC
garment will burn through but does not on its own sustain a flame.
Polyester-Cotton blend PCs are a whole different story, however.
The blend will ignite and will sustain a fire on its own.  To
compound the risk to the worker, the polyester in the cloth
will melt as it burn.  With respect to flame retardent treated=20
PC garments, I have seen several reports from other
Radiation Protection folks that the flame retardant on treated
PCs doesn't survive the harsh laundry environment for very
many washes, so this doesn't seem to offer a ready solution.

I would suggest that you watch the DOE Operating Experience Report=20
Website at the following URL for more details:

The above information does not represent official information
or opinion of my employer.

Best regards to all

Judd M. Sills, CHP           |   Office: (619)455-2049
General Atomics, Room 01-166C|      Fax: (619)455-3181
3550 General Atomics Court   |   E-Mail:  sillsj@gat.com
San Diego, CA  92121         |