Tragic and nearly unbelievable: Vodka bottle used as secondary container

by on April 16, 2013 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

You know workers’ using secondary containers are supposed to follow specific protocols: they must identify the chemical in the secondary container, manufacturer, hazard warnings, etc. Here’s a tragic and almost unbelievable example of why:

Vehicle drivers at a Canadian beer distributor developed a habit of using used liquor bottles to store windshield washer fluid. Two men who were tasked with washing one of the trucks apparently went into the truck’s cab, found the vodka bottle filled with bright-blue washer fluid, and began to drink it. The washer fluid contained about 50% alcohol – but deadly methanol, not drinking alcohol.

One worker was hospitalized, but another, who apparently drank more of the liquid, died. An Ontario court fined the company $175,000 Canadian.

While this case is in Canada, where there are separate rules, the fundamental safety lessons remain the same:

  1. Label secondary containers. Include hazmat warnings. Methanol blinds and kills. That might have headed off this disaster.
  2. Supervisors should watch out for habitual mislabeling of containers. Bad habits will require some effort to break. In this case, it wouldn’t be difficult to supply sufficient extra containers for the washer fluid.
  3. Watch out for chemicals used for substance abuse in the workplace, too. People can be clever in abusing chemicals. The Warning signs may appear different in each case. Sometimes it’s a chemical that’s disappearing too quickly. (Ethanol, for example, sometimes disappears from university research labs.) Other times it’s the “wrong kind” of containers, either spotted in litter, the dumpster, or other areas they don’t belong (such as vodka bottles in vehicle cabs).

Source: HazMat Management magazine.

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