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RR916 - Risk assessment for VCE scenario in an aerosol warehouse

In 2006, Dr Graham Atkinson of HSL was asked by HSE to review the risks from fires in large aerosol stores (Atkinson, 2007). Atkinson reviewed incident statistics and reports and concluded that the greatest risk to people from such fires was from explosions, not from the fire itself. He postulated a vapour cloud explosion (VCE) mechanism, whereby a fire of material elsewhere in the warehouse from the aerosols could give rise to a hot air layer close to the ceiling. Aerosols stored close to the ceiling could then fail and release their flammable contents, but not be immediately ignited by the fire. A large flammable vapour cloud could then form, which would give rise to a VCE when ignited. The report led to considerable discussion between HSE and the British Aerosol Manufacturers’ Association (BAMA) about whether the proposed VCE scenario is realistic. Critiques of the Atkinson report were produced by Phoenix Loss Prevention Ltd (2007) and the BRE Centre for Fire Engineering at the University of Edinburgh (BRE, 2009). No other studies have been identified which address this issue.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2012-03-02