image of a hydrogen fuel cell

H2Incidents: Hydrogen Incident Reporting and Lessons Learned

About H2Incidents | Advanced Search

H2Incidents Help!


An incident is an event that results in:
  • a lost-time accident and/or injury to personnel
  • damage to project equipment, facilities or property
  • impact to the public or environment
  • an emergency response or should have resulted in an emergency response.
A near-miss is an event that, under slightly different circumstances, could have become an incident. Examples include:
  • any unintentional hydrogen release that ignites, or is sufficient to sustain a flame if ignited, and does not fit the definition for an incident
  • any hydrogen release which accumulates above 25% of the lower flammability limits within an enclosed space and does not fit the definition of an incident
A non-event is a situation, occurrence, or other outcome relevant to safety that does not involve a particular incident or near miss. For example, a non-event might consist of a failed safety inspection.

H2Incidents Help!


The left navigation on the H2Incidents website is two-fold.

  1. Links
    By clicking on the links in the left navigation, you can view all incident reports matching that lone selection. For example, clicking on "Minor Injury" within the "Damages and Injuries" category will return a list of all incident reports that included "Minor Injury."
  2. Checkboxes
    Selecting checkboxes next to navigation items—then clicking the "Update Criteria" button—will provide a restrictive search on the criteria selected. Each selected checkbox will restrict the results to only incident reports that include that criteria. For example, selecting the checkbox next to "Minor Injury" in the "Damages and Injuries" category and selecting the checkbox next to "Decision Making" in the "Factors" category will return a list of all incident reports that included both "Minor Injury" and "Decision Making."

Incident Report

Hydrogen Balloon Incident

Incident Date: 2010



Was Hydrogen released?

Was there Ignition?

No Ignition Source Defined.


During the early morning hours on a Tuesday, a university support staff member was preparing for an off-campus community outreach program for high-school-age students in the community. One of the program demonstrations was to show students the reaction energy and properties of the hydrogen + oxygen = water chemical reaction. It was a demonstration that the professor and the staff member overseeing the program had done for over 15 years with no incidents ever occurring.

To prepare for the demonstration, eight balloons were filled, four with pure hydrogen and four with the proper combination of hydrogen and oxygen. The balloons were placed into a larger plastic garbage bag and carried outside to a university-owned SUV located next to the building's loading dock. The bag of balloons was being placed into the vehicle from the right side door. The balloons were inside the vehicle, but not yet in their final place for transport. As the staff member was leaning into the doorway during this placement, a balloon at the top end of the bag ignited, which then set off a fiery explosive reaction involving the other balloons.

The staff member, who received burns to the face, was transported to a nearby hospital by the professor. The vehicle's windshield and two back windows were damaged, and the headliner of the vehicle was slightly scorched.



Vehicle & Fueling Systems

Damage and Injuries

Probable Cause(s)

Contributing Factors

No Characteristics Defined.

The incident was discovered During Operations.

Lessons Learned/Suggestions for Avoidance/Mitigation Steps Taken

Although the preparation-for-transport procedures were done the same way they were done for previous outreach programs, this time it proved to be a different situation. It is not clear what caused the ignition of the first balloon, which then set off a chain reaction to the others. The incident shows that preparation for transport is a very important element in the overall process, and it should be evaluated for risk factors along with every other element of the process.

Date Added to H2Incidents: 10/1/2010