Fire crews called to acid leak at Engineering Department

Four staff were treated on site after 46 batteries overheated and leaked sulphuric acid

Photo: Flickr

Four staff at the University’s Department of Engineering Science were treated by firefighters and paramedics on Friday morning, following exposure to sulphuric acid fumes.

46 batteries in the basement of the department had overheated and swelled to cause the leak, and Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue services were called to the scene within minutes.

Those who had been exposed to the fumes were treated on the scene, with one man taken to hospital for further precautionary checks.

The fire crews consulted with on-site management and the battery manufacturer to create a plan to deal with the incident, and firefighters were sent into the basement wearing breathing apparatus with a gas monitor and thermal image camera.

It was apparent that water could not be used to cool the batteries down, as despite the fact they were unconnected form their power supply, they were still holding electric charge.

Therefore, a cooling fan had to be used, extending the time before the building could be safely handed back to the University.

The crews left the scene at around 5:15pm, almost five hours after they had been summoned.

Incident Commander, Station Manager Paul Webster said: “This was an unusual incident as most people expect that if you apply water to something hot it will cool it down – this is not always the case, especially when electricity or chemicals are involved.

“I would like to thank the staff and students for their co-operation during this lengthy incident”.