Vapes and E-cigarette devices have been linked to spontaneous combustion events in the US, UK and Australia over the last 12 months.
The Western Australia Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) last year received a report of an incident at a mine site where a vape battery spontaneously ignited in a worker’s pocket while travelling in a utility.
The potential risk and consequences of a vape battery explosion and fire in an underground mine, quarry or in the vicinity of an explosives magazine or fuel facility are potentially catastrophic and as such then DMIRS has made note of the danger.
The department’s director of dangerous goods and petroleum safety Steve Emery has highlighted the key actions required to avoid the hazards associated with vapes.
This event is consistent with reports of other vape devices spontaneously combusting in the US and UK, some of which have resulted in fatalities, with the vast majority of those injured being people who had vape batteries in their pockets when the batteries exploded.
Those carrying devices on site were also found to have had conductive materials, such as coins or keys in their pockets, which increases the likelihood of a short circuit occurring.
A recent study led by researchers at George Mason University estimated there were more than 2000 visits to US emergency rooms from 2015–17 for vape burns (thermal and chemical) and explosion-related injuries.
A Health NSW fact sheet states that, “the products available in Australia use a wide variety of parts and are sources from many different manufacturers, including overseas manufacturers where safety and quality controls are unknown,” which includes the quality and safety of the lithium-ion batteries used in vapes.
Given the foreseeability of these occurrences and their potential consequences, the risks associated with vapes being carried by people on quarry sites, particularly in potentially hazardous areas, should be reviewed and preventative and control measures developed and implemented.