SA: safety warning issued over dry ice handling and storage

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Thursday, 4 February, 2021 - 12:30
Policy & legislation
South Australia

SafeWork SA recently issued a safety alert following an incident in which a sealed glass bottle containing dry ice exploded, resulting in the serious injury of a worker.

Dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) converts to carbon dioxide gas at -78°C and is often used in laboratories, and when dry ice transitions from solid state to gas state, large volumes of carbon dioxide gas are produced.

Dry ice should not be placed in a sealed container that does not allow for the release of this gas as the build-up of pressure can cause the container to rupture or explode, according to the safety alert, which said there are a number of safety measures when working with dry ice:

  • do not store dry ice in a sealed, airtight container as the pressure resulting from the production of carbon dioxide gas may lead to an explosion
  • always use appropriate eye protection when handling dry ice
  • do not handle dry ice with bare hands
  • do not use or store dry ice in confined areas or rooms without ventilation as carbon dioxide in high concentrations may cause asphyxiation

All businesses which use, handle or store hazardous substances should develop, implement and maintain safe systems of work, according to SafeWork SA, which advised persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to ensure:

  • a comprehensive risk assessment is undertaken prior to the use, handling and storage of any hazardous substances
  • appropriate controls are implemented to eliminate or minimise the risks associated with the use, handling and storage of hazardous substances
  • workers are provided with adequate information, training and instruction in relation to the safe use, handling and storage of hazardous substances, the associated risks and the control measures implemented to control those risks.