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United States Department of Transportation
Research and Special Programs Administration [Notice 98-12]

Safety Advisory; High Pressure Composite Cylinders

AGENCY: Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), DOT.

ACTION: Safety Advisory Notice.

SUMMARY: RSPA is alerting persons who own, use or are responsible for the maintenance of composite cylinders to a hazard. Damage may occur when a composite cylinder comes in contact with strong cleaners or other strong corrosive agents. RSPA is aware of ruptures involving two DOT-E 8059 composite cylinders made with aluminum liners and wrapped with "S glass" fibers. The probable cause of both cylinder failures was stress-corrosion cracking of the fiberglass overwraps as a result of exposure to a strong corrosive agent.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cheryl West Freeman, Office of Hazardous Materials Technology, Research and Special Programs Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590-0001; Telephone (202) 366-4545

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: RSPA investigated two failures involving self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinders manufactured by EFI Corporation under exemption, DOT E-8059. The first failure occurred in March 1996 at the Humboldt (California) Fire Protection District. The second failure occurred this year at the Hawthorne (Florida) Volunteer Fire Department. Both cylinders failed while stored in fire trucks. Exponent-Failure Analysis Associates (FaAA) in Menlo Park, California analyzed the cylinders. In its reports, FaAA concluded that the failures were caused by stress-corrosion cracking of the fiberglass wraps resulting from exposure to a strong corrosive agent. Fiberglass composite cylinders are particularly at risk for stress-corrosion cracking because the fibers are under constant tension due to the internal pressure. When the structural integrity of the overwrap is weakened, a catastrophic failure of a cylinder can occur that may result in serous injury or death.

Persons responsible for the care of composite cylinders should take measures to ensure that they do not come in contact with strong corrosive agents, that the cylinders are washed only with a mild soap and water solution, and that all recommendations of the cylinder manufacturer or distributor in regard to maintenance, requalification and use are carefully followed.

Issued in Washington, DC on December 8, 1998
[Federal Register 63 FR 68819 12/14/98]
Alan I. Roberts
Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety


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