Over recent months, both nationally and locally, there has been a notable increase in the number of gas vapour ignition incidents resulting from the DIY use of expanding foam.
Expanding foam is often used to fill in holes and gaps in and around the home, however many people may not realise that it isn’t just foam that is expelled from the can when its being used. These foam canisters also contained a propellant gas which is emitted when the foam is being squirted. The gas is highly flammable and heavier than air, so will sink and accumulate, especially in poorly ventilated areas.
Incident Intelligence Officer, Mick Angland explains:
“These products by their nature often mean people will being using them in confined areas such as kitchen cupboards, behind units, on skirting boards etc. and the gas that is released when the foam is expelled in fact continues to be released even whilst the foam is drying.
If there is poor ventilation the gases can form an invisible, low lying cloud that can be easily ignited by any number of ignition sources around the home, resulting in a vapour gas explosion”.
Ignition could be caused by any number of household appliances including gas cookers, grills, motors from fridge freezers, washing machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers or electrical switches, including the switch on the kettle or a light switch for example.
Mick went on to say; “people have received flash burns from incidents like this, but there have also been people who have succumbed to much more serious burns injuries as a result of these gas vapours being ignited.”
“With the video demonstration we wanted to show people how volatile the explosion can be with the gases produced from expanding foam. We’re also keen to hear from you, have you experienced a near miss when using an expanding foam product?”
“We know that it’s very likely there are more of these incidents occurring than we as a service will be notified about. There may be near misses happening much more than we realise, so we’d be really interested in hearing about people’s experiences so we can gain a better understanding of how some of these incidents come about.”
Ultimately we want to prevent people from being faced with a fire situation like this and would always advise the public to read and follow the manufacturers instructions to ensure they’re using the product safely.