Tip: Drum de-heading and disposal

Supplied by: King Materials Handling

The following are tips on drum de-heading and disposal.

  • Always treat the drum contents as suspicious. The label may show treacle but is could contain caustic soda or spent fuel. If in doubt, place the drum to one side for further testing of the contents using a glass thief or a COLIWASA to grab a sample in a test tube to send off for analysis.
  • If the drum has a bowed top and/or sides, treat with extreme caution as pressure may have built up in the drum, and a speedy release of pressure may be harmful to you. There are pressure relieving implements and techniques available.
  • Always use an anti-static (bronze) Drum Bung Wrench to remove drum bungs. Multi bung wrenches are most popular.
  • Always vent the drum using the large and smaller drum bungs to create air flow. If the smell emanating from the drum suggests a potential problem, leave to one side, as with procedure 1. If you are satisfied with the safety of the contents, you can begin the process of de-heading.
  • Do not stand with your face over the bung hole at any time, any reaction will force its way up right to where you’re standing.
  • If you are not sure, don’t strike a match to look inside as one poor unfortunate did in the USA. Ascertain if the contents can safely mix with water, if so, pour in water mixed with detergent and agitate / roll the drum with the bung replaced, then vent, to assist in the breaking down of any volatile chemicals. Pour out the contents into a suitable waste receptacle before opening the top of the drum.
  • Use a manual De-Header for smaller quantities and electric or air operated De-Headers for larger volumes. Use a De-Header with a bronze blade, where there is a suspicion of volatility / hazard.
  • You have the choice of opening the drum from the inside of the chime (the top rim), the middle of the outside of the chime, or under the chime if you are using automatic equipment, but with the manual De-Header, the operation usually allows opening the inside of the drum rim. Each stroke acts like a giant can opener, with the blade pushing the cut portion hard against the inside wall of the drum to prevent a sharp edge from forming.
  • Although you are using anti-static Drum Bung Wrenches and De-Headers, this is no guarantee that you may not create a spark by any other means, so prepare the site as carefully as possible to avoid the potential for sparking.
  • Always wear protective clothing and a full face shield attached to a safety helmet.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in both liquid and powder forms close by in case of emergency.
  • Keep all other personnel away from the area.

Note: This information is brought to you in the interest of safety. It is not definitive. You are advised to seek any help from other informed sources, prior to embarking on drum de-heading, especially where the drums are of an unknown origin, are damaged, rusty and the contents suspect. There are professional drum disposal experts such as Geocycle to contact if you have any doubts whatsoever.

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