What Are the Causes of an Oxygen Tank Explosion?

Some medical conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, require patients to use an oxygen tank at all times, including in the home. Oxygen tanks are also used for welding. While those who work with oxygen as a job are more likely to take proper precautions, patients who use it should also be careful to avoid an explosion. While the tanks are relatively safe when used appropriately, accidents can happen and the tank can explode under certain conditions.

...
While oxygen is not flammable, it does accelerate a burning fire.

Smoking

One of the primary uses of oxygen in patients is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is a side effect of smoking. Some patients on oxygen continue to smoke because they find it difficult to quit and put their lives at risk every time they light up. In many cases, the oxygen is contained in its cylinder and will not ignite. However, if the person removes his cannula and allows the cigarette to get too close to the oxygen source, the heat can ignite the oxygen and lead to a tank explosion.

Vibration

While some patients who require an oxygen tank are happy to stay at home, others like to venture out and live an active life. However, vibrations can cause an oxygen tank to explode when it is combined with a heat source. For instance, when a person on oxygen rides in a vehicle on a sunny day, the sun's rays heat up the canister. As the vehicle travels along, the bumps in the road cause the tank to vibrate. The combination of vibration and heat can create a spark, which in turn ignites and explodes the oxygen tank. Therefore, it is important to secure the tank well when traveling and protect it from direct sunlight.

Oil

Although not a common cause, if there is any oil present in an oxygen tank, the tank can explode, especially as it is filled. The oil is usually introduced into the canister when the valves are oiled as routine maintenance. Oil from your skin can also serve as a trigger. When you turn the oxygen tank back on, the pressure compresses the oil, which then explodes and causes a fire. While this explosion is generally a small one, a large amount of oil can create a much bigger explosion.

Leaks

When dealing with an oxygen tank, it is important to take care of it and have it inspected regularly for safety. A leak in the valve or any other part of the canister can be a fire hazard. Since oxygen is necessary for a fire to burn, all it needs is a small spark to create a fire. Because the oxygen found in these canisters is more concentrated than room air, it causes a fire to burn much hotter. If there is a leak in the canister and a spark or fire starts, the fire can travel into the canister and cause an explosion.