Select Page

Video highlights risks of using shipping containers for purposes other than shipping

Combustible substances that vapourize combined with an ignition source can cause containers to explode with deadly force

Reusing shipping containers for workplace or residential storage can create unseen risks to workers and the public. WorkSafeBC’s new video and safety bulletin outline these hazards and how to reduce risks. “Shipping containers are being repurposed all over B.C.”, says Dan Strand, Director of Prevention Field Services, WorkSafeBC. “The containers are designed to be watertight, which means they are well sealed with little or no ventilation ideal for shipping purposes but potentially dangerous for other uses.”

Vapours or gases from common flammable or combustible substances, when combined with an ignition source in a shipping container with little or no ventilation, can produce a catastrophic incident. A leak of just 1 kilogram of propane, for example, can rupture a closed shipping container; the propane tank on an average home barbecue holds 9 kilograms. A full tank can generate the same explosive force as 100 kilograms of TNT.

In 2013, in Saanich, a propane barbecue stored inside a shipping container caused an explosion that blew one of its 113-kilogram doors 40 metres, into a public park. (This video illustrates the chain of events.) In a tragic 2011 incident, a volunteer firefighter was struck and killed by a door that blew off a shipping container while he was fighting a fire in the next building. Afterward, investigators found that the container was being used to house a collection of gas-powered tools. When the fuel vapour was exposed to extreme heat, the container exploded.

Other risks can arise from the original use of a shipping container. The floorboards may have been treated with toxic chemicals to protect cargo during shipping, or chemicals may have spilled in transit, and workers can be overcome by exposure to these chemicals.

Employers must conduct a risk assessment and include these safety controls:

  • Identify whether any flammable/combustible products are being stored in a container, and if so, move them to a well-ventilated location
  • Train workers in the risks and put up signs to ensure appropriate storage procedures
  • If storing flammable/combustible items in a container is unavoidable, modify the container by improving ventilation, then remove any possible sources of heat or ignition, and minimize the number of workers nearby
  • List the contents of your container(s) in your fire-safety plan so first responders know the potential hazards
  • Find out if the floor has been contaminated with toxic chemicals. If it is, clean or replace the floor. When doing so, keep all doors open and ensure workers wear personal protective equipment such as appropriate respirators

Used safely, shipping containers can be repurposed as storage compartments, office spaces, electrical rooms, welding and painting operations and even living spaces.

About The Author

Surrey604 Staff

Surrey604 is an online magazine and media outlet based in Surrey, BC. Through writing, video, photography, and social media, we secure an intimate reach to the public. We promote local events and causes.

Submit Free

Upcoming Events

Sidebar Google ad

Recent Posts

Day 3 at Vancouver Fashion Week F/W18

Published 3/22/2018 in Surrey604 Magazine

King & Reign Photo by Tristen Williams

Featured image credit: Tristen Williams Photo – King & Reign

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 – Vancouver, BC –at the David Lam Hall in downtown Vancouver, was a night to highlight local design talents from Vancouver and Canada as a whole.

VCC kicked off the night with a wide variety of grad student talent. James Jurome created a fresh collection of edgy menswear with a military… read more ❯

Day 2 of Vancouver Fashion Week F/W18

Published 3/21/2018 in Surrey604 Magazine

Tristen Williams Photo - Bone and Busk by Katharina Mior

Featured image credit: Tristen Williams Photo – Bone and Busk by Katharina Mior
Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 – Vancouver, BC
Tuesday evening at the Vancouver runway started with a succession of local BC based designers
at the David Lam Hall in downtown Vancouver. Atelier Grandi showcased new collection Avium, bringing elements of nature to the runway. Inspired by winter birds of the north,… read more ❯

Vancouver Fashion Week Opens F/W18

Published 3/20/2018 in Surrey604 Magazine

Feature Image by Aziz Dhamani

Monday, March 19th, 2018 – Vancouver, BC – at the David Lam Hall in downtown Vancouver.
Vancouver Fashion Week kicked off the week in style with a sensational selection of designers as part of the designers preview showcase. 14 brands exhibited one key look from their Fall/Winter 2018 collections as a tease of the incredible talent that we are to see… read more ❯

Clean Sweep Week, April 21 – 28

Published 3/19/2018 in Surrey604 Magazine

Celebrate Earth Day by cleaning up your community!
Residents, businesses and community groups are invited to organize their own clean up during Clean Sweep Week,
April 21 to 28, 2018.
Choose a location in Surrey to clean up, gather a group of volunteers and contribute to keeping Surrey clean!
Sign up before the deadline on April 1, 2018. Click on link… read more ❯

Mighty Speck Records: BC’s Community Music Label Has A Grand Purpose

Published 3/17/2018 in Sr3y

Written by Johnny Papan

“In probably 2013 I wrote a poem called the Mightiest Speck of Dust. The first line was: ‘The mightiest speck of dust, that’s us.’ I started thinking about something small having a grander purpose and being able to achieve big things. It reminded me of the Margaret Mead quote: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the… read more ❯