LIFE CYCLE MANAGEMENT OF SHOCK SENSITIVE CHEMICALS
Introduction and Scope:
The purpose of this appendix to the DOE Chemical Management Handbook Volume 1 is to
heighten complex wide awareness and concern for the safe lifecycle management of shock
sensitive chemicals. It provides an overview of this subject. For specific information on the
management of shock sensitive chemicals, consult the listed publications at the end of this
appendix and qualified professionals.
Shock sensitive chemicals are those chemicals that may explode with impact, movement or
handling, friction or heat. These chemicals have the potential to undergo a rapid, uncontrolled
reaction that may be violent enough to produce an explosion.
There are two types of shock sensitive chemicals. Some chemicals are inherently shock
sensitive. These materials have known hazards, predictable properties and may be governed by
various codes and standards. The other group of shock sensitive materials is those compounds
that initially are not shock sensitive but become so due to chemical changes, such as those from
improper or prolonged storage. Properties of these materials are unknown, unpredictable and
these additional hazards may or may not be identified on the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)
of the parent chemical. Mechanisms causing chemicals to become shock sensitive upon
chemical changes from improper or prolonged storage include, but are not limited to drying,
decomposition, and slow reactions with oxygen, nitrogen, or the container.
Incidences and Causes:
The following are examples of the numerous reports of incidents involving shock sensitive
chemicals. Note that both of these incidents involved chemicals that became shock sensitive
upon prolonged storage.
A technician used a pair of channel lock pliers to twist the rusty lid off a small, dark green bottle
to characterize the unknown chemicals inside. There was an immediate explosion and glass
shards embedded in a nearby chair. Analysis showed that over time the picric acid in the bottle
combined with the metal lid to form shock sensitive metal picrates that lodged in the threads in
the neck of the bottle.
A technician was remotely handling an old, opened, metal can of anesthesia grade ethyl ether to
add more ethyl alcohol as an inhibitor. Enough inhibitor was thought to be present, so the ether
was not considered hazardous. The liquid level in the can was low so the technician had to tilt
the can to pipette out an aliquot for the peroxide test strip. As the technician turned the can