A tradition has been hospitalized after lithium-ion batteries he was unloading at an industrial site exploded in a 25m fireball – setting a nearby building on fire.
The 42-year-old worker opened a container of expired lithium cells at Sicona Battery Technologies in North Wollongong, south of Sydney, about 1.30pm on Tuesday.
The man took the spent batteries — which are still reactive until neutralized — outside, where he poured water on them to cool them down, Fire and Rescue Inspector Andrew Erlik said.
But the water enhanced the chemical reaction and the batteries exploded in a large fireball.
The fireball traveled 25 meters and caused a second fire in a nearby furniture workshop where flammable liquid was stored.
Firefighters quickly contained both fires and cleared the area of fumes, but the man was left with severe burns to his chest and face.
The worker was unloading a shipment of used lithium batteries at an industrial park in North Wollongong, south of Sydney, when they exploded in a large fireball (pictured)
An office worker in a building across the street said Illawarra Mercury the man was about to spray a bucket which then just exploded and ‘shaken the whole place’.
He said nearby workers rushed out with hoses to help put out the fire.
NSW Ambulance Inspector Norm Rees said paramedics were called and provided first aid to the man.
He was then assessed by a specialist medical team called to the scene who found he had second degree burns to 18 per cent of his body, mainly his face and chest.
“He was also burned by fragments of molten metal that had gone under his chest and arm,” Mr Rees said.
He added that a second ambulance was called to the scene to help onlookers as it was “quite a disturbing scene for the local workers in this area”.
Paramedics rushed him to Wollongong Hospital and he was then airlifted to Royal North Shore Hospital in a serious but stable condition.
“Chemical explosions can cause extremely serious injuries. This patient will receive further treatment from the burns unit, Inspector Rees said.
He is being treated at Royal North Shore Hospital (pictured) in a serious but stable condition
NSW Fire and Rescue Superintendent Peter Church said before the used batteries can be transported safely, they must be neutralized.
“You do (this) with a small amount of water… But the reaction we saw occur today was very unusual,” Mr Church said.
Police attended the scene and Safework NSW has been notified.
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