We have, sadly, a lot of experience with these types of injuries. The advice about water is absolutely correct. Water on top of molten metal is not a hazard – so long as it stays on top. But water under molten metal is unbelievably destructive, and that can happen easily.
It would be helpful to know more about the nature of the accident. The spill from a small crucible of molten iron in a laboratory is one thing. A breakout from a blast furnace, quite another. The latter may also involve slag, coke, and even carbon monoxide exposure. A burn case in a foundry could also involve sand and coke in the wound.
That said, I’ll see if I can dig up an up-to-date medical protocol or protocols for molten iron exposure from one of the companies whose workers we represent. But one thing is certain. Treatment should not have to begin with peeling melted clothing off a third-degree burn. Protective clothing is critical for anyone working with molten iron. First, no polyester blends or anything plastic – even a watchband! (Some flame-retardant blends incorporate nylon or other synthetics, and that’s OK in specific applications.) Pure cotton underwear was used in the past. Lately we’ve been switching to CarbonX for underwear, and it’s saved at least one life. We’re currently using Indura for pants, shirts, jackets, coveralls, aprons, etc – aluminized if there is a potential for radiant heat exposure. And no material fits every situation. For example, we use Nomex in oil refineries, but not around molten metal. And we use a different fabric for molten aluminum (usually Vinex) than for molten iron or steel.
The run-of-the-mill lab coat is unacceptable around molten metal. In this area, as in others, industry is way ahead of academia on safety.
Michael J. Wright
Director of Health, Safety and Environment
See us on the web at www.usw.org
We get a lot of random and unusual questions due to the nature and reach of my company's web site. I've condensed today's to this simple question: Does anyone have an SOP for injuries caused by exposure to molten iron?
The original inquiry is below. There should not be a chemical reaction to worry about (CO2 is a byproduct of producing iron metal in the blast furnace; CO is used to reduce the iron oxides to Fe + CO2), but you would have to worry about potential frostbite because CO2 extinguishers produce temperatures that are below -40 C and there is no effective way to measure the temperature during the "treatment". See https://escholarship.org/uc/item/17r2w1z9
While water would normally ideal, in this case there is a significant risk of a steam explosion when water contacts molten iron: see https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/accidentsearch.search?sic=&sicgroup=&acc_description=&acc_abstract=&acc_keyword=%22Molten%20Metal%22&inspnr=&fatal=&officetype=&office=&startmonth=&startday=&startyear=&endmonth=&endday=&endyear=&keyword_list=on&p_sort=event_date&p_desc=ASC and http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02588540#page-1 In fact, there is a notorious case of a classroom thermite demo that caused injuries when a few grams of molten iron was deliberately dropped into a bucket of water.
Presumably, once the metal is removed from the victim, water is the fastest and best method for cooling the person, but one would have to take appropriate precautions to remove the victim from the area before treatment - large quantities of water in use near large quantities of molten iron could cause a major catastrophe.
I figure there's someone on the list who must already have figured out the proper procedure or knows where to find one. DCHAS rocks!
When working with hot steel and metal can one use a Co2 extinguisher to cool down a person who have liquid steel on them?
Or will that form a reaction with the steel and cause corrosive burns?
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