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People often decide to recycle used 205 litre (44 gallon) or smaller drums for other uses. Cutting a drum that has contained flammable or toxic substances is dangerous and has caused serious injuries and fatalities.
Flammable vapours in the drum can cause the drum to explode during welding or cutting. It is often unclear what's been in an empty drum, and flammable or toxic vapours may persist in the drum for years.
If you answer yes to any of these questions:
DO NOT APPLY HEAT TO THE DRUM
Keep the drum away from oxyacetylene torches, naked flames or sparks from grinding and welding equipment.
There are companies that specialise in cleaning and cutting drums.
Before applying heat to empty drums, specialist companies thoroughly clean and test the inside of the drums with gas monitoring instruments, to ensure that there is no chemical residue or explosive vapour.
These firms also specialise in removing dents from drums ready for re-use. Do not be tempted to remove dents using air pressure without adequate controls - the drums commonly over-fill and burst.
Go to the specialists.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 requires employers to provide employees with a safe and healthy work environment, and employees to take reasonable care with their own safety and health at work and the safety and health of others.
Regulation 3.96 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 indicates that the employer, main contractor or self-employed person must ensure that immediately before any welding or cutting is carried out on or in any container, drum or tank, the employer shall, in accordance with section 3.3(h) of Australian Standard AS 1674.1-1997 : Safety in welding and allied processes - Fire precautions, ensure that there is no danger of fire or explosion (available from SAI Global).