Cell Phones - Source of ignition

Submitted: Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 09:57
ThreadID: 6272 Views:2362 Replies:5 FollowUps:4
This Thread has been Archived
In previous threads I have referred to an incident last year where a cell phone ignited a gas cloud in a Chevron Texaco gas plant. Here are some links where you can view details:

This is the test of the safety message + further comment from Chevron Texaco.

This is from the technical safety committee discussion board at the ISA website.


---- EMPC Central SHE Notice follows -----

One of the first confirmed cases of a Personal Electronic Device (PED)
causing a fire in an operating area. Person was working on a natural gas
instrument panel. Cell phone rang and when he flipped phone open, a small
falsh fire ensued, causing burns to the worker. Incident occurred at
Chevron location. Guidance provided in second note attached is from
ChevronTexaco -- for your consideration, but should not be considered an
ExxonMobil policy or requirement.

On Tuesday(1/29/02)we(ChevronTexaco)had a contract Panel Specialist in MP
41 burned while working on an open panel that used supply gas for the
instrumentation. He was carrying a Nextel cell phone that was turned on
and rang while working on the panel. When he flipped it open to answer
the call a flash fire occurred, causing second degree burns on his
forearms and caused a "sunburn" on his nose and cheeks. While we have
talked about electronic devices being an ignition source there appears to
be very little belief that it really can happen, and as a result,
electronics are still used with little regard to the potential danger. We
have taken steps to ban all cell phones in the field and have raised the
attention level of the danger electronic devices pose if not used in safe
locations or in conjunction with a gas detector. Fortunately, this man
was not hurt worse, however, it appears that it is a Contractor LTA and a
Recordable Fire (because of the injury). He was wearing safety glasses
which probably prevented an eye injury.

Unfortunately, it took an incident such as this to drive home the
potential danger of electronics as ignition sources-please use this as an
opportunity to educate your folks so that it doesn't happen somewhere

Jim Swartz
Asset Team Leader
Main Pass 41 Asset Team

ChevronTexaco Followup Note:
This looks like the first cell phone incident the ERTC Fire & Process
Safety Team has been able to verify (worldwide). Now that we have the
data, it is clear that portable electric/electronic devices (PEDs) should
be considered ignition sources. We offer the following immediate
guidance until we can formalize it in the Fire Protection Manual:
* Unless they are tested, approved and labeled to be intrinsically safe,
PED's can be ignition sources, and as such need to be controlled.
* Possible means of control:
* Require that PEDs be intrinsically safe - (this could be very difficult
to enforce)
* Eliminate their usage while in a facility where flammable vapors are a
* Eliminate their usage for employees who have a higher risk of being
exposed to flammable vapors (operators and maintenance personnel - we
would put this contractor into this category because of the type of work
he was performing).
* Control their usage through a permitting process. Many locations are
moving toward a tiered hot work process, high energy and low energy, and
this would fall under low energy. The question is - Would a permitting
process have prevented this incident? In an optimal situation, yes; but in
real life, probably not because the contractor may not have even thought
to ask for a permit. Permitting will work for those PEDs being used
routinely as part of the job such as ultrasonic inspection equipment.

Please contact any member of the ERTC Fire & Process Safety Team for more
Marty Welch
Fire Protection Engineering & Process Safety Management (ChevronTexaco)

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Reply By: Hedonist - Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 10:37

Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 10:37

ISA Technical Safety Discussion

To view the discussion, select "Join the discussion list" and then "Visit Safety Without Joining" and search for "Cell Phone"

Step Change SADIE
SADIE is a Safety Alert database maintained by the UK Steel Contruction Institute, and funded by UKOOA (UK Ofshore Operators Association) and the UK Health and Safety Executive (Government Body).
AnswerID: 26417

Follow Up By: Hedonist - Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 14:15

Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 14:15
I should have mentioned that the original Safety Alert can be viewed in this database. You will need to sign up first - its easy and free though
FollowupID: 18058

Reply By: Member - Willem- Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 10:43

Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 10:43
Probably was the static electricity from the clothes he was wearing in the movement to answer the call on the cellphone. Can't see how two pieces of plastic moving outwards can cause an electrical flash..........but then again, I'm not a scientist.Cheers, Willem
Never a dull moment
AnswerID: 26418

Follow Up By: Hedonist - Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 10:57

Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 10:57
The movement of the two pieces of plastic are not going to cause an 'electrical flash', but there are several electrical components within the phone that can.

I'm sorry I can't link directly to the discussion as there is a fairly detailed examination of the possible ignition sources within the phone on the ISA boards.
FollowupID: 18042

Follow Up By: pathfinder - Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 12:20

Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 12:20
I agree with Willem - don't know about gas plants, but in the US last year at gas stations, there were over 300 'incidents' involving static from clothes (rub across seat, driver alights, reaches to metal pump, spark arcs across); not one involving a mobile phone...it's a miniscule risk or even a non-risk compared to all the other sources of spark...vehicles, static etc...so unless you are walking into a servo with a plastic jerry nude, don't even think about yelling at me if my mobile rings when I'm filling up ;)
FollowupID: 18050

Reply By: Alan H - Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 13:01

Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 13:01
A mate of mine who runs an engineering workshop has banned the use of them entirely in the work area. Not because of the risk of ignition of gases, but because his staff are supposed to be working not sending infantile jokes and text messages to their mates/girlfriends or whoever.
He says if it's an emergency let them ring the office and his staff will pass the message on immediately.
He's of the same mind as me about these things, very good occassionally, but otherwise they're a bloody nuisance!
AnswerID: 26426

Follow Up By: Member - Wherethehellawi - Friday, Aug 01, 2003 at 11:56

Friday, Aug 01, 2003 at 11:56
know of an incident where a technician walked of the roof while on his mobile.....messaging ....and not looking where he was walking.....he's very thankful it was a only a carport and not 2 or more levels.Wow! am I cute
FollowupID: 18130

Reply By: Simon - Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 13:54

Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 13:54
Hmm, I cant see the problem of at least leaving your phone in the car while filling up?

I dont turn mine off at a fuel station but I do leave it in the car.

If you cant take your phone off your hip for 5 mins you have a problem.

I have used my phone while filling up at an unmanned (card) station (diesel) before because I do as well think that the risk is minimal but at a public servo I think that anyone who uses one is totaly inconsiderate and foolish.

When one cant even see the dangers involved in boiling battery acid on an open fire you would have to wonder what that persons life expectancy is?

AnswerID: 26429

Reply By: joc45 - Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 17:46

Thursday, Jul 31, 2003 at 17:46
I should add to this forum that blaspheming while filling the tank is forbidden; a bolt of lightning may come down from the sky.
AnswerID: 26445

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