Danger on the Adhesive Coating Line

Danger on the Adhesive Coating Line
A plant worker adjusting rollers on an adhesive line suddenly began to act strangely. What caused the worker's spaced out appearance?
Mysteries of Science


The factory made coating products, including rolls of adhesives. Many of these adhesives were cast from solvent. Solid plastic resins were dissolved and other ingredients were added.

The liquid adhesive was then applied to a roll via a coating head through a slow and winding process going through an oven. A non flammable solvent methylene chloride evaporated in the oven, leaving the adhesive film on the roll.

The methylene chloride was exhausted out of the plant into the atmosphere.

The plant often received complaints from nearby residents who could smell and see the pollution.

The solvent tended to drift down to the ground if there was no wind. A plant worker adjusting the rollers on the adhesive line suddenly began to act strangely, swaying with a look of complete indifference on his face.

What caused the plant worker's spaced out appearance?

Here's the rest of the story.

The heavy methylene chloride vapors built up around the coater. They were not being properly exhausted out of the plant. The vapor level at 5 or 6 feet above floor level was tolerable, but the concentration was at toxic levels nearer the floor.

Experienced operators sensed the higher concentration levels and held their breath when bending down. A new plant worker didn't know this trick, although it never should have been necessary. This was an accident waiting to happen.

Once a worker started to succumb to the oxygen-displacing vapors, they would have fallen to the floor where the concentration was lethal. A nearby supervisor figured out the situation and sprang to action to rescue the worker before something serious could happen.

The lesson here is to be observant, time is not always an option.


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