A used fire extinguisher left discarded in a bin in Belfast exploded after two council workers attempted to place it in a refuse vehicle.
On 22nd September, residents in the Holylands area of the city heard a loud bang and feared it was a bomb blast.
However, it was discovered that the noise was in fact an exploding fire extinguisher, with eyewitnesses revealing that the force of the explosion blew both of the binmen off their feet.
Following the incident, which occurred on Carmel Street, army bomb disposal experts were called in to investigate and local residents were evacuated from their homes.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, 21-year-old student Noel McHenry, who lives close by to the incident, revealed that the men did not suffer any serious injuries.
“I heard a loud bang and saw one man lying on his back beside it but he got back up and didn’t seem to be too hurt,” he told the news provider.
Another local resident revealed he was watching television when he heard the blast and saw the two council workers climb back onto their feet. The pair were later admitted to hospital in a state of shock and received treatment for ringing in their ears.
Police set up a cordon on Carmel Street until 6.30pm while they helped look for the cause of the “low level” explosion but found nothing untoward and attributed the cause of the blast to a discarded extinguisher in the bin.
Businesses across the UK and Northern Ireland have a legal responsibility to dispose of “condemned” fire extinguishers legitimately and safely via a licensed waste carrier. A fire extinguisher can be deemed to be condemned when it becomes damaged or simply comes to the end of its working life.
Firms who fail to dispose of damaged or used fire extinguishers in the correct manner, for instance by merely placing them in a domestic bin or dumping them, could be procesuted.
Businesses should therefore only use licensed waste carriers to properly recycle fire extinguishers, while it is also vitally important to have them regularly serviced to ensure that they are not defective.
Robert Thilthorpe, technical manager for the Fire Industry Association, urged businesses to ensure their fire extinguishers are disposed of in a safe and environmentally sound manner.
“If they are manufactured to EN 3 then they should be serviced on an annual basis by a competent person who can provide a safe disposal route,” he said.
“If they are small disposable extinguisher then they should be disposed of as given in the manufacturer’s instructions. These types of extinguishers are pressurized containers and should never be disposed of in a domestic bin.
“Environmentally, disposal should be carried out by a company that ensures that components are reclaimed/recycled and that contents are disposed of in an environmentally secure manner (for example, foam concentrates may be deemed as hazardous waste which means that the owner of the extinguisher has a duty under Environmental Permitting Regulations [England & Wales and NI] to carry out safe disposal within the appropriate waste streams.”