Brown University Environmental Health and Safety

Chemical Hygiene and Laboratory Safety

(Office Phone 401.863.1737, Office Fax 401.863.7676)





These are some stories of lessons learned while using heating elements at Brown University. Some occurred outside the laboratory but the lessons learned can definitely be applied within labs.


Heat Gun Fire

On campus, a contractor was using a heat gun to for lead paint removal under the eaves of a building. The heat gun, rated at a maximum temperature of 1000F, actually heated up to between 1100 and 1200F. While the contractor was working under the eaves, a combustible in the wall caught fire, causing serious damage to the building.

LESSON LEARNED: Be very cautious when using heat guns near combustible materials.


Hotplate Fire

In a lab on campus, a woman was heating acetone and hexane on a hotplate and left it unattended while she went to the restroom. A passerby walked past the door and noticed a fire in the hood, grabbed a fire extinguisher in the room and put the fire out. An electrical short circuit was suspected as the source of the spark for the fire.

LESSONS LEARNED: Make sure that the hotplate that you are using for heating of flammable materials is appropriate for flammable materials. Also, NEVER leave heating operations unattended. A fire such as this could have led to far worse damage than seen the photo to the left.


Another Heat Gun Fire

In a dorm on campus, a contractor was using a heat gun to bend molding to apply around the edge of the floor. Over 20 feet away was an open container of adhesive that's vapor density is greater than air. The contractor assumed that the vapors would rise and thought the safest place to work would be on the floor. The vapors travelled to the heat gun, the flames flashed back to the container. The container ignited the curtains and set off the sprinkler system.

LESSON LEARNED: Be aware of the properties of vapors of flammable and combustible liquids.


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Office of Environmental Health and Safety

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